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Visual Attraction

Because today is the birthday of our fabulous desktop publisher, Debbie Esposito, I have been thinking happily of what Debbie has brought to our printed materials:

    Class, professionalism, and visual appeal

When I walk into a room to give a marketing presentation or a class, people often glance at our materials and say, "Wow! These are great. Do we get to keep them?"

This is their reaction even before they have read more than a few words–which convinces me that a classy, professional, attractive image on paper is worth a thousand well-written words.

Do your printed materials WOW people? When you hand someone your business card, do you hear, "Ooo! Nice design!" When you pass a colleague a flyer, is the response "We should do ours like this!" When you distribute materials in a meeting, do people examine them closely front and back, gently finger the paper, and ask, "Who is your designer?"

The responses above convey appreciation, admiration, and approval–all terrific things to receive as a business writer.

In contrast, if you hear yourself apologizing for the look of your materials, stop! Do something different:

1. Get a good book on print design.
I recommend The Non-Designer’s Design Book, by Robin Williams. When you read it, study the difference between Robin’s Before and After examples. Follow Robin’s advice and stop centering everything.

2. Collect examples of interesting designs.
On our web site you can download an attractive job aid, "Email Etiquette: 25 Quick Rules," which shows how a good design can dress up material. The way Debbie designed it, I can easily update the job aid in Microsoft Word when I need a version without my photo and company description.
This flyer for one of our classes also shows how you can enhance your professional image without compromising your content.

3. Learn how to use Word or a design program–or hire someone to create templates for you. Either or both of these choices can work depending on your computer skills, your interest in controlling your materials, your time, and your other resources.

To our desktop publisher, Debbie Esposito, thanks for the class and style you bring to our work–and happy birthday!

Posted by Lynn Gaertner Johnson
By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English. She grew up in suburban Chicago, Illinois.