I'm in the process of doing layout for a trifold aimed at the elderly population in my town, and I'm looking for some recommendations from folks who have experience laying similar materials out for a similar audience.

Before everyone jumps on me and says that not all the elderly have visual acuity problems, let me say that I agree but am aiming for the lowest common denominator - a large-print brochure can be read by anyone but a small print one can't.

Some other issues I'm not sure about:

  • Contrast ratio: should I aim for a higher contrast radio (more blacks and whites and fewer grays?)
  • Colors: several studies I've read (including this one) seem to indicate a slight increase in red/yellow and slight decrease in blue / green color perception. Has anyone run into this, and how significant is the increase / decrease? Would a more limited palette be useful?
  • Font size: What's the standard increase in font size for a "large print" publication? 150%? 200%?
  • No worries here with the edits. Back in architecture school I did research on architectural and HCI accommodations for the elderly but nothing on straight print design. I've got to assume that there's someone out there who's got experience with this. Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


I work for a group called Active Living Coalition for Older Adults (alcoa.ca) — we were looking into design issues affecting websites and found this site to be very helpful: http://www.nia.nih.gov.

Regarding print, the stronger the contrast the better.

For type size, we use 12/14pt for body text, nothing lower (footers/headers, footnotes are 10/12pt). I use the l.c.a. x 1.5 as a general rule for line length.

Regarding colour, we don't limit ourselves regards any colours but we do very little body copy in reverse on coloured backgrounds, and if we do, we make sure the background colour is a strong one. Limit your use of pastels, especially in type.

tl/dnr — 12/14 font for body or larger, strong contrast.

  • Good stuff. So 12 point isn't too small? The other thing I'm trying to do is limit the amount of copy - some of the contributors to this tend to be a little long-winded in front of a keyboard, and I feel like this brochure (for our local CDC STEADI rollout) needs to be simpler. Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 17:51
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    According to everything I have read 12/14 is close to ideal — can't help you with copy-editing! I usually show a first proof to a client and either a) have the text run out of frame and point out I have no more room and they need to cut, our b) point out how the presentation would improve if they cut down on words. Good Luck! Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 17:55
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    Hee hee...they've gotten used to my "you can't fit 10 pounds of manure into a 5 lb bag" rant. Also, sometimes I just cut copy until it fits and send it back. Half the time they never notice, and the other half the "manure" rant is enough. :-) Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 19:37

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