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Entries in Format (1)

Friday
Jun172011

The Value of Consistent Format

“Here’s the Format Manual,” was intoned during orientation for one company. Without even looking up, a small pamphlet was envisioned. Instead, a 1” thick three ring binder was presented.

In it was every conceivable form of communication along with the specified format. Yes, two column for a memo, in the company’s unique (yes, unique) font, including the flow of the overall document. It felt very restrictive; leaving me wondering what led a partnership to commission a “Format Manual.”




I now “get it.” Here’s why.

My business is helping companies develop IT Strategy. We often take complex subjects and present them in a compelling manner. This has led us to develop a library of hundreds upon hundreds of PowerPoint slides, all stored on SharePoint for staff to access.

This intellectual property library allows us to quickly respond to client needs….pulling together non-client specific data quickly and professionally.

For this to be effective, the slides must all have the same look and feel…otherwise we can’t build presentations from existing materials.

Recently, a presentation was developed where a lot of time was spent on modifying the format…limiting the value of those materials.

All our presentations have black letters on white backgrounds. This one has white letters on a black background. Personally, making notes on a black background slide is nearly impossible.

The fonts were changed, introducing a new font, and in some cases shading. As before, these slides don’t “look” like ours, and certainly can’t be reused.

We use stock photos in most of our presentations…for a professional look. This author had to use black and white cartoon figures….and hand drawn figures. It just doesn’t hold together for me. In fact, it cheapens the look.

My sense is authors should spend time on developing concepts and presenting compelling ideas as a prime focus, not on changing format.

As I thought about this blog entry, I was drawn to an example of where format is varied and it works. Google’s Doodles come to mind. They are compelling.



That said, they are temporary, they are clever, they don’t impact function….

I respect that IBM’s used Helvetica forever. Every IBM document is the same.

When was the last time the New York Times used a different font than…say….Cheltenham. Every 100 years or so. Heck, even when they went digital they scanned the old image.

So…let’s give it a decade before we change formats. Until then, let’s focus on content.