I went over this subject two times with my boss before, to please him with the company's proposals document, to be sent out to clients, and now I'm at square 1 again.

The first layout had the customized project proposal in a narrow column, with nice white space at the sides, and "tips" or common (non-personalized) details about the project to fill some of them. "Some mystery client" complained about the white space then, and my boss asked me to remove the white space.

For the second version I created a three-column horizontal layout, that worked great even with bullet points. You could even print this one, and it would still look easy to read, and the columns saved constant scrolling on screen by doing good use of the full screen, compared with a long vertical document.

After awhile, I noticed he is not using it! and sending a plain-text full-width vertical un-formatted text, because "someone told him the columns look weird" (probably a web user who never saw good printed materials)

My boss doesn't want the main column's sides filled with anything as I suggested (testimonials, trivia, statistics, etc) so the only way to please him seems to be making a wide single-column text (way more than 80 characters) because he doesn't either want a 30-page document (his compact full-width document is already about 8 pages, in small no-paragraph-spacing font.

I feel I run out of ideas, and graphics is not an option either because they will be cut by the printer's non-printing margins…

How can I lay out the text to avoid columns AND a large page count, without making the text un-readable?

  • Can you maybe show us examples of the different versions? – theyve Nov 26 '14 at 22:19

The designer's dilemma: how to satisfy both of a client's mutually-exclusive requirements. We've all been there. A "quiet ad that really pops," an elegant layout using multiple Day-Glo inks, a small page count for a long document while keeping the text large. Each of these is an oxymoron. Trying to achieve the obviously-unachievable will only lead to frustration and, sooner or later, a career change.

The answer is to decide first for yourself the best way to go (or a couple of alternatives). You have to have it clear in your own mind or the rest won't work.

Gently, tactfully, but firmly present your boss with both sides of the problem, without ever hinting that he might possibly be clueless about design. Establish agreement that the presentation must be reader-friendly, and steer him to the right answer. If you're adroit, he'll think your solution is all his idea.

If he's not a complete flake whose opinion changes with the every breeze, you'll have something you can complete and that you won't have to revisit unless the text requires an update. If he is a complete flake, you might want to consider looking for another employer, because you'll never have the satisfaction of being able to get a finished product on anything you do for him.

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