The layout of the printed matter

Whether or not a form is going to do its job successfully will depend not a little on the appearance, spacing and arrangement of its wording. For this reason, when a new printed form is being created or an old one substantially modified, it is not enough to provide the printer with a note of the verbal content of the form and information about the material etc. to be used; some means of conveying the designer’s conception of spacing and emphasis must be adopted. The best plan is for the designer to include in his instructions a sketch of the form as he intends it to appear in print.

The sketch should be drawn to the correct size and should indicate exactly how it is proposed the items on the form should be positioned and spaced. The sketch should ensure that the required material—in the chosen type face—will fit the space available. (If the form is an old one which is to be changed only to a minor extent, it should be possible to use a copy of the old form, suitably annotated in place of the sketch.)

The drafting of a form will be started by considering any fixed features such as those relating to size, equipment, the need for reference data in particular positions, registrations of entries etc. Then the space needed for notes, instructions, questions, entries etc. must be calculated according to the type size chosen and the overall effect of spacing and arrangement considered. It may be necessary to try out various layouts with different arrangements of entries, sizes of type, sizes and shape of form etc. before the most suitable layout emerges.

The following points may be useful when preparing a draft or making a sketch:

  1. The form should be drawn on a sheet of paper large enough to leave an outer margin for notes to the printer, indicating the edge of the actual form by an outline, stating that the outline indicates ‘trim’ and should not be printed (see pages 116-117).
  2. The drafting should be on one side of the paper only; draft the back and front of a form either side by side on one sheet or on separate sheets, noting in the outer margin which is the ‘back’ and which is the ‘front’. Paper with 1″ printed squares and subdivisions at /12″ or ⅙″ may be used (preferably printed in light blue, as the camera will not reproduce this colour), to facilitate spacing entries etc.
  3. In the normal case margins should be left inside the edge of the form to show that the printed matter is not required to ‘bleed’ off the paper. (Printing right up to the edge of the paper is expensive and should be avoided if possible.)
  4. The exact measurements required for the arrangement of the entries should be specified on the sketch. (Critical dimensions must be specially indicated.)
  5. The entries on the draft should be made clearly in capital and lower case, as required. If the space to be filled is too small for clear hand lettering write or type the lettering on the margin of the draft or on a separate sheet with a cross reference to the space on the form. Indicate words to be printed in bold type or in italics etc. by red ink underlining: wavy for bold, or straight for italic, with a marginal note in addition (see B.S.I. standard printers’ marks beginning on page 161).
  6. Sketch punched holes or perforations with a marginal explanation.
  7. If a small number of copies is needed for testing purposes or to show to persons responsible for the work, draft on a translucent paper and make copies by the dyeline process.