An Office Romance: Improve Your Relationship with Microsoft Office Suite
Recently, two members of the DeSantis Breindel team led an AIGA/NY Breakfast Club discussion entitled “An Office Romance” which provided attendees with insider tips and tricks for working smarter with colors, fonts, templates, master pages, and style sheets in the ever-present Microsoft Office suite. “Powerpoint and Word documents are often the most visible and constant expression of a client’s brand, so designers need to understand how to work in these applications.” said Jane Margolis, DeSantis Breindel Design Director and one of the co-presentors.
Breakfast Club events are casual morning meetings led by various experts that explore specific focused topics related to challenges designers face. The program was established by AIGA/NY is one of 66 chapters of AIGA, the professional association for design. The discussion was meant to empower designers to feel more confident using Microsoft Word, as well as serve the broad range of their client’s end users. Designers are often asked to create professional looking documents for their clients, that are also easy for the client’s employees to manage and navigate on their own. This can often create issues for designers, as Microsoft Office does not offer the capabilities required to create the level of sophistication clients are looking for.
“There was a shared frustration, a lot of head-nodding in agreement—designers are struggling over a universal trend. Clients want total control over their documents and for them to look good too,” said Chris Kelly, who also led the discussion is a Production Manager at DeSantis Breindel. Designers’ relationship with Microsoft Office isn’t so hot and heavy, however this Breakfast Club meeting attempted to rekindle the romance!
See the tips and tricks provided during the meeting below to improve your relationship with Microsoft Office suite.
Have a clear understanding of the client’s internal workflow and document deployment expectations. You may be able to convince them to use InDesign if workflow is centralized and they recognize the value.
How are documents printed and delivered?
Are documents sent as PDFs or live (we recommend PDF)
Printed from PDF? (recommended)
PowerPoint: on-screen or printed pitchbook? Both? Multiple versions?
Ask for examples of existing documents and review them carefully to assess the client’s skill level:
Are there well-defined style sheets?
Are footers set up properly?
Do they use section or column breaks?
Do they use tables?
Are PowerPoint masters set up properly?
Do they have a defined color scheme?
Does everyone at the company create and edit documents, or do they have a central document support group? Or both?
If there is a central support group, bring them into the discussion early. You need them on your side!
If everyone at the company creates and edits Office documents, try to determine the base level of expertise.
Ask if the client is willing to provide training. – Consider budgeting for development of guidelines.
Test everything in Office 2007 & 2011 on Windows.
Better yet, build from the start in Windows.
Check with your client to see what version they use. Not all versions of 2007 have the same functionality.
Right click is your friend! Lots of Office functions are hidden there.
You need to see the same menus and dialog boxes that your client sees if you expect to help them use their templates.
Office RGB values are not the same as those in Adobe, even if you use the same number values.
Nifty trick that only works on a Mac: Insert a JPG or PNG from Adobe and use the eyedropper to sample the colors to determine RGB. Then you can apply these colors into the PC document color scheme.
If you’re doing a full brand engagement, develop Office colors as part of the color palette development..
Send color-test documents to your client and ask them to view them and print them on all devices used in the company.
Go to “Create New Theme Colors” to change the document’s theme colors.
Office will apply them to elements such as charts in the order they appear in the theme.
Use the lighter tints that appear in the theme as part of the color palette.
Don’t use the darker ones, which muddy up the colors.
Color management in Office is an oxymoron.
Tweaking RGB values to print correctly from Office apps may produce colors that look wrong on screen.
Though Office doesn’t have true color management, converting to PDF applies
Adobe color management.
So for printed documents, get your client to agree to always print from PDF. And tell them they have to live with the screen appearance of their colors. Or make different versions of their documents for screen and printing.
Beware blues and purples: they are the most difficult to manage across formats.
PNG for everything — supports transparency.
Office mangles EPS files.
Use 600 dpi PNGs for critical graphic elements like letterhead logos/mastheads.
Import images close to the size you need or they will bloat the file size.
Paste directly from Photoshop or drag-and-drop from Finder.
“Change picture” function is handy, but won’t honor cropping.
To reduce file size, go to Save option and select Remove Cropped Picture Areas. Don’t adjust Picture Quality here, or your images may be compromised.
Use only basic system fonts.
Check on Microsoft typography site for font lists, and then double-check to be sure these fonts were actually installed on client computers.
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