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Do graphic designers format and proof read documents?

We are editors of large reports, mostly from government. The drafts we get are often a mess of formats, with heading structures not clear and the text in multiple styles, in boxes and embedded in images. We pity the poor graphic artist who would have to work out the structure of the document and fix all the text up, if the author doesn't use an editor first. So, a few questions ...

  1. Do graphic designers do much text clean-up like this?

  2. Is not understanding the structure of a document because of poor use of heading styles a problem?

  3. Would graphic designers much prefer to get the text cleaned up and and well-styled, or isn't it really a problem?

  • Hi Ron, I think this could be a really interesting question but removed the 4th part since it wasn't fact based for our Q&A format. – Ryan May 31 '16 at 0:14
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  1. Do graphic designers do much text clean-up like this?

Yes, but I would prefer not to (some do, some simply won't).

On some jobs I can spend a huge amount of time cleaning up terribly formatted text. Generally speaking, all formatting will get stripped out first anyway, but if there are images, tables, different text boxed etc. it can still take a long time to work out what is what.

Related: Is it the Graphic Designer's job to correct/suggest grammar and punctuation?


  1. Is not understanding the structure of a document because of poor use of heading styles a problem?

Definitely, Yes.

I recently went live with a website (after everything being cleared with the client multiple times, at different levels of management within the organization) only to get an email a week later asking why the content for two separate pages was all on one page under one heading.

The content for the website was handed over to me in a number of documents, all formatted completely differently and inconsistently within each of those documents. Add that to the fact that I have next to no knowledge about the subject and things get easily confused.


  1. Would graphic designers much prefer to get the text cleaned up and and well-styled, or isn't it really a problem?

Again, Yes.

As already said, formatting generally gets stripped first anyway so don't worry about making it 'look nice', but any formatting and styling that you don't want to be completely ignored needs to be consistent. If I get a document with body copy in 10 different sizes, 6 different typefaces, random colors, etc. I'm going to ignore all of that styling.

Clearly format the text with headings, new pages/sections, emphasised text etc. and that's it. It doesn't matter how you format the text, as long as the formatting is consistent and clear.

"Clear" doesn't necessarily mean a styled document with big bold headings and emphasised text in italic (although it can be and often is), it could be a plain text file with an accompanying legend, e.g:

Symbol     │ Meaning
───────────┼───────────────
#          │ Heading
##         │ New Section
*string*   │ Emphasised
>          │ Quote

As long as it's consistent and understandable it's ok.

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The problem

text cleaned up and and well-styled, or isn't it really a problem?

There are are two separated things here.

  • Text cleaned up

  • Well styled

The Well styled part is not important. Style is about design. But the "Text cleaned" is a little complex, depending on the case.

The key part is here:

to work out the structure of the document.

Any form of comunication has two main components content and form. From a simple conversation between two persons, to a feature film. What do I say, and How do I say it.

But there is another main part that is underestimated. Structure. This is a main component of the content.

If the author doesn't use an editor first.

As it is a main feature of the content, it needs to be addressed by the author or some editor.

The steps of the solution

1) Use the right tool. Some people use simply the wrong program. Uses Power Point or Excel to write information.

Some well formated presentations can be turned somehow easily into a word document.

2) In ANY simple word processor, Microsoft Word, Libre Office, etc. There is a main feature that defines this structure. The little box that has "normal, predefined text, body text" or simmilar. It can be changed to Heading one, Heading two... That is the structure, and it is very simple to use, but again needs to be addressed by the author or some redactor or editor.

A document with this well defined structured elements can be easily changed into a totally new design with some few steps. Sometimes in a matter of seconds, like when you change a template on a power point presentation.

You can change the look and feel of an entire website of thousands of pages if this structure is present.

The lack of this could result in a disaster.


I personally blame the developers of Word processors, because this toolbar (Heading one, Heading two, Normal Text) SHOULD be totally the main bar, but instead they put the "Change Font" and "Font Size" in first place. That is a total nightmare, inscusive for the author.

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Do graphic designers do much text clean-up like this?

Yes this can be a very common job, and it should be. Some specialize in it while others do it in addition to other jobs for that client. I think this should be welcomed not feared.

  • Shows the company values design even on a pure textual level
  • Provides additional tasks to designers to earn a living
  • Let's designers do what we're supposed to, design
  • While also letting copywriters do what they're supposed to, write

You mention Government Jobs, this is very important

Bids such as RFPs often have very, very, very specific formats to follow. There are courses you can take (I have) just in Government Proposals. The one I took was through the Small Business Development Center in my city. In the Solicitation they will give an exact table of contents of what they want and even break down what should be discussed in each of those sections. So, if you're working on these documents you should tell your client you need the Solicitation and TOC so you can check off each point. If you have questions or think your client put some content in the wrong place then ask them. The Government scores the bids based on their TOC, if you (or your client) fail to follow it then you will lose the bid.

Is not understanding the structure of a document because of poor use of heading styles a problem?

No. I think its more likely that not understanding the structure is a case of lazy graphic designer didn't read the document. Always read the document. Too long? Then build a team to reduce the workload on any one person. A single designer doesn't format and layout textbooks. It's a team effort. Still don't understand after reading? Then it's signifying a larger issue with either a poorly written document or your own lack of comprehension skills. Only you can be honest and determine if its you or the document, and how to proceed.

If its a Government Solicitation that you're not following then you should probably address it with the Employer, you might need time to get up to speed. Many companies that deal with Government Bids have entire teams dedicated to the task especially when you get into large bids for engineering, construction, IT services, and the like.

Would graphic designers much prefer to get the text cleaned up and and well-styled, or isn't it really a problem?

I think this can greatly vary based on your relationship with the client. If you're in-house designer for a company then no. If you're a contractor but have been working with that client for a few years then maybe not. If its the first and only job you've done with the person then yeah, it would be a problem if you know nothing about the product and goals.

  • I think putting it down to "a poorly written document or your own lack of comprehension skills" is a bit much. I'm sure there are a lot of well written documents you or I would struggle to understand. Get handed one of those with badly formatted headings and anyone would struggle. – Cai May 31 '16 at 12:07
  • @Cai right but if I struggle to understand it I would acknowledge my own lack of understanding on the concept and not blame it on the formatting of headings. If someone hands me a dissertation on Economic Theory it doesn't matter how well formatted the headings are, I might still not understand it very well. I have to be honest and acknowledge that and not accept jobs I cannot complete. Similar to if someone were to ask me to code the next Facebook I would have to acknowledge not being able to. Its why especially for Government Bids a team can be essential. – Ryan May 31 '16 at 12:27
  • @Cai but seriously, more often than not in my experience people just don't read. They skim at best. – Ryan May 31 '16 at 12:29

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