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How to Use Templates Effectively

How to Use Templates Effectively
Copyright © Craig Warren

In desktop publishing, templates are pre-designed
documents that we can use to create business cards,
brochures, greeting cards, or other desktop documents.
Some types of templates include: Mix and match elements
using a Wizard or by choosing items from a list that the
software assembles into our final product.

Pre-designed formats for documents where all we add are
our own words in place of dummy or placeholder text.
Graphics and typestyles are part of the template.

Pre-designed formats for documents that have placeholders
(grid lines, boxes, dummy text) for key elements, text
and graphics. We add our own text and graphics and choose
the appropriate typefaces. Many programs include their
own set of designer templates for a variety of documents.

You can also design and save your own templates. Let’s
look at some of the ways that templates can work for you.

* Pros & Cons of Using Templates

You might have heard (or even thought it yourself) “Real
designers don’t use templates” or, “Templates are a
substitute for real design.” But there are times when
using one is the most appropriate choice. Some times and
ways that templates can work for you:

– Save time with templates.

– Offer your client a less expensive alternative to your
original, made completely from scratch designs.

– Use templates for routine forms for your own use
invoices, etc.) so you can spend more time on client

– Maintain consistency with newsletters or between
related marketing pieces.

– If you’re a non-designer, use templates to give a more
professional edge to your own marketing materials.

– Build your first Web page with templates until you
become more comfortable with Web publishing.

– Maintain page-to-page consistency in a large Web site
and simplify updates.

Remember, in many cases templates are designed by well
known designers. We often look at the work of others for
inspiration, using templates is simply another way of
borrowing from the talents of those around us. Starting
with a template is a smart idea. However, there are still
many ways to personalize them without sacrificing the
benefits of speed, variety, and consistency.

* Tips for Using and Personalizing Templates

– Use some of these suggestions to make the most of the
templates you use:

– Choose an Appropriate Template. Pick a template layout
that is appropriate to the job. Selecting a design that
is inappropriate or that requires too many alterations
defeats the purpose of using a template in the first

– Change the Template Graphics. Add your own clip art and
graphics in place of any pre-selected graphics used in
the template. Graphics also include rules (lines). Change
the size or placement to better fit your own text.

– Change the Template Fonts. Some templates come with
font specifications. They are just suggestions. Be sure
to choose a typeface that is appropriate to the design of
the template. Some layouts and some typefaces have their
own casual or formal tone. It’s usually best to stay close
to the type choices (if any) used in the original template
if you’re unsure.

– Change the Text Formating. Change the leading or
alignment of the text. Add text embellishments such as
initial caps or bullet lists.

– Change the Template Color Scheme & Paper. The layout is
only one part of the overall design. Simply changing the
paper or changing the colors used in your document can
cause dramatic changes – even when the layout stays the

– Change the Template Layout. While one of the main
reasons to use a template is to have an instant layout, a
few simple changes can make that layout perfect. Flip the
template or just move an element or two around.

– Save Your Modified or New Template. Whether it’s a
modified template design or one you’ve created from
scratch – save it as a template. If it’s right for one
job, it may be right for another. If it is a newsletter
or one of many pieces in a coordinated marketing package,
you save yourself time down the line.

– Use Templates for Inspiration. Ever found yourself
staring at a blank piece of paper or a blank screen,
unsure of where to begin? Use templates as a starting
point. Just browsing through the various templates – even
ones unrelated to your current design project – can give
you ideas and start you on the road to laying out your own
original masterpiece.

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