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fact file1.8 Visual Literacy and DTP


Graphic Design

Graphic design is the art of visual communication. The message is conveyed through the arrangement of words and pictures on the page. Desktop publishing is the technical tool that designers use to communicate effectively the message of print publications by drawing the reader in.


Desktop Publishing

DTP started back in 1985 with two ground-breaking technical developments: laser writer printers and Aldus PageMaker software. This was the first application to have a user-friendly WISYWYG interface (What You See Is What You Get). Laser printers revolutionised both the computer and typesetting industries because of the
ease with which sharp page layouts with a high print resolution of 300 dpi (dots per inch) could be produced.

Since then, the widespread adoption of DTP software means that print publishing is no longer the exclusive field of professional designers and typesetters. However, whether professional or amateur, if you want to produce a successful document, it is essential to understand some of the fundamentals of good page design.

desktop publishing

visualVisual Literacy

Visual codes dominate even where there are no graphics on the page because our first impression of the layout is a graphic one. You can test this by half closing your eyes and peering at any plain printed page: the text itself makes shapes and patterns in denser or lighter shades of grey and black against white. These patterns direct our eyes and organise the information so that we can start to decode the message. Like an artist stepping back from the easel the better to view a painting in progress, page designers should also view their layout through half-closed eyes or in a mirror to judge the balance of the elements included.

As this scan of a page with no illustrations from a journal for primary teachers shows, the underlying structure of the layout is quite clear, despite the text itself being illegible:

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