Would you go to a job interview dressed in tattered pants?or a Victoria Secret’s naughty nighty? First impressions are lasting impressions. My grade-seven teacher taught me that after I clowned up a book report.
But for essays, your title page serve as a first impressions. So, let your title page cheer “I care!” with a splash of design.
Psychologically, your professor’s first peek at your title page could up that grade. And everyone knows books are judged by their covers?at least, in the checkout aisle.
Now, you don’t need skills in InDesign. You just need a spattering of quick tips. The non-comedic Robin Williams writes The Non-Designer’s Design book: Design and Typographic Principles for the Visual Novice. I add a little essay insight.
Spray on the Contrast. No, not your subtle eyeliner, Sis, your plastered black eyebrows. Spray gobs on. Make your title text larger than the rest. Much larger. Or darker. Or neon red. Give it stark contrast. Maybe use a fancy font for the title text with a skinny font for the body. Or use a big fat font with the title and a spindly font with the body. Just give the title and the body fonts contrast.
Or if you use an image, make the image extra-large. In other words, give your title page one central focus, whether it’s your title, your image, or (for the narcissists) your name.
Repeat Elements. In theses, if you use a heading, use the same font and size for each heading. Do the same with your title page: use the same font and size for both your name and your prof’s name. Use another font for both title and subtitle (but maybe in vastly different sizes).
For repetition, you can even use the same line spacing between the course name, the prof’s name, and your own name. To do so, in MS Word, go to the little arrow on the bottom-right corner of the ribbon section called Paragraph and click. On the screen that pops up, go to Indents and Spacing > Spacing > After and enter a value. Instant design delirium.
A double return for line spacing screams amateur.
Align left; align right; don’t align center. Center sucks. Except if you’re an NHL hockey player.
For your essay, use only one alignment per page?preferably not center. But for your title page, you want some visual interest. So, when making your title page in MS Word, go to Insert > Text > Text Box. You’ll have an instant textbox. Right click on one of the edges, and you’ll get the option to Format Auto Shape / Picture. Here, set the outline color to no color.
Then comes the magic. Left align the text inside the text box. Then, drag the left edge of the textbox somewhere between the center and left margin. Just not centered. This will add a nice professional touch.
Or right align the text in the textbox and put it somewhere between the center and left margin. Just not centered. Another splash of class.
I lied. You can also use two text alignments (with two textboxes). In this case, imagine a thick vertical line anywhere on the page, but not on the center point. Then, create two text boxes on either side of the imaginary thick line. On the left-hand side text box, right-align the text. On the right-hand side text box, left-align the text. Boxes of fun.
Put similar stuff together. Lump stuff together that fits together logically. Separate that stuff from the rest. (But keep the alignment constant.) If you include your email and phone, then put them together. Put your prof’s name and course name together. Separate each of these chunks with some white space. But left-align (or right-align) for a professional touch.
Make the white space a simple, uniform shape, not an erratic splash. (When making a title page, draw a single imaginary line around all of your white space. Make sure that white space imaginary line looks kind of uniform, not wild.)
When you put little bits of text in all four corners and text on the page’s center, then your white space gets trapped in an ugly shape. Let your white space breathe, by making it look more like a simple, uniform shape rather than an erratic splash stuck inside the page.
Does that make sense? If not, get both amateur and professional business cards and draw single borders around the whitespace, compliments of Robin Williams. If the whitespace border line looks fairly uniform, you’re good to go.
A little design magic and you’ve got the makings of a ticklish title page. Say pro at the get-go (especially if what follows lags). A paradox? I call it a creative spark.