Templates – The Fickle Shortcut

In the world of information design, templates exist for everything under the sun. Blogs, resumes, websites, everything under the sun has a shortcut that will, in theory, do the design work for you. All you have to do is plug in your information, and viola, all done. Templates are vital shortcuts.

Templates are also dangerous. Very very dangerous.

We use templates because we want to increase efficiency and maintain consistency. Fantastic! I agree, templates are great for that. The danger of templates comes in the form of preexisting templates. I’ll clarify with this bold statement: the best template, nay, the only template you should ever use, is the one you design yourself. For all the thousands of preexisting templates for whatever project you have, they will ultimately hamper your work for two reasons:

1) Preexisting Templates are Unoriginal

If you use the first template on the list of templates, your work will look the same as everyone else who chose the same template. You don’t have to create a resume or website so radical the likes of which no ones ever seen, but you will be far from unique. Originality stands out in today’s society.

2) Unsatisfactory Design Flaw

Everyone differs on the idea of a perfect template. Mainly because everyone’s individual needs differ. Your individual design ideas do not have the 100% eHarmony compatibility match somewhere on the internet. Although several templates may come close, one or more lingering small details will always haunt you during the entirety of your project’s lifespan. Your project will not be perfect if you are not satisfied.

Fortunately, an easy solution exists.

Note in my bold statement that I said “design” and not “create.” Templates, much like programming and website coding, don’t need to be made from scratch. The simplest way to create a template is to borrow ideas from pre-existing templates. By taking individual features you enjoy from multiple templates, you create a design that not only works 100% for your needs, but also looks a bit less cookie cutter. Just because you are selecting a template does not mean you cannot change it. The template police will not hunt you down.*

Being willing to get technical helps a lot. A willingness to edit a few simple fields (color, font, size) goes a long way towards change you enjoy. Resumes are easily tweaked in word/OpenOffice, for the blog/web page designer, a little CSS editing is all you need. A simple Google search points the way.

Templates are important, and taking some time to make one you are happy with will pay off in the long run. A happy template equals happy projects. 🙂

*Though you should not use copyrighted/protected work without permission, of course.

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Filed under Information Design, Technical Writing, Web Design

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