C.R.A.P. Design Principles for Effective Communication

Effective document design is an integral part of written communication. Whether it be a letter, email, text, website, Facebook post, or technical manual, your message may be lost in translation without a well-designed document. Implement these four basic C.R.A.P. design principles – Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity – to enhance your communications process and help ensure your message is effectively received.

Contrast – Color contrast naturally creates a focal point and draws the eye’s attention. Additionally, not enough contrast will blend everything together, making it difficult to read. Do not use colors that are too similar yet slightly different. This will create discord and will have undesirable effects. Using a color wheel can aid in identifying contrasting colors, as well as complementary colors, color schemes, color families, and colors that clash. Try this handy interactive color wheel from TheVirtualInstructor.com.

Repetition – Readers like consistency; they like to know what to expect. Therefore, use the principle of repetition to better engage readers. When readers identify patterns, they tend to be more invested in the content as they locate the continued patterns. Repeat formatting, such as font style, colors, and alignment, throughout the document, and your readers will retain more of your content.

Alignment – Alignment creates relationships between a document’s elements and the page itself, and it leads readers’ eyes, thus catapulting their attention onward. Align elements with the page, as well as with other elements within the document. Repeat alignments, such as left-aligned text and horizontally-aligned images. Alignments control the readers’ eyes; you control the alignments; therefore, you control the readers’ eyes using alignments. This gives you complete control over how readers will read your document. You can lead their eyes to read left-to-right, in a z-pattern, in columns, or even diagonally.

Proximity – Keep similar elements near one another. Doing this will inevitably create flow and harmony throughout the document. We humans expect similar things to be grouped together, so this principle exploits that expectation in order to increase readers’ investments in the content.

Effective communication requires more than just the right words. You can make your readers read more, comprehend more, and retain more, simply by using the C.R.A.P. design principles. These principles will help you deliver your most effective messages.

To learn more, watch this video explaining the four basic C.R.A.P. document design principles.



“CRAP: 4 Basic Principles of Graphic Design.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Nov. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=admfIU5UkUs.

“The Interactive Color Wheel.” The Virtual Instructor, https://thevirtualinstructor.com/members/interactive-color-wheel/.

Making the Most of Networking

Networking Image

How likely are you to drive to a foreign location, full of strangers, and start a conversation with a dozen or more of the strangers? It is an odd set of circumstances, but this is what we put ourselves through at networking events. Networking events can be stressful for introverted and extroverted alike. There are some ways you can prepare ahead of the event to have a more successful networking function.

Be sure to see the list below of networking events related to communication and technical writing.

Know your event

Thorough preparation makes its own luck.” Joe Poyer

When reviewing a networking event to attend, be sure the subject aligns with your work and career goals. Are you interested in technology, teaching, programming, plumbing, camping? If the event is focused on the same thing, it may be a match for you. Once you have decided on an event, the other things to be familiar with are directions to the location, event and parking fees, and length of the event.

Set a goal for the event

People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” Earl Nightingale

Identify one or a few goals that you want to accomplish at the event. Perhaps there is one new person you would love to meet and establish a connection with. Maybe this could be someone you already know and want to strengthen your relationship with.  A simple goal by be to collect a set number of business cards or to make a specific number of connections. Set the goal and stay focused on the goal. It is very important to remember when meeting new people, this is your only chance for the ‘first impression’.

Do not be timid

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.” Theodore Roosevelt

It can be difficult to start a conversation with a stranger. At a networking event you are all in the same boat. It is awkward for everyone. Start with the basics, say hello, introduce yourself, and as a basic question. For example, ‘How long have you been a part of this organization?’. The type of question could vary by the type of event. This author attended a networking function that was by invitation only and was set up by one person. Everyone at the event knew the organizer. The question that was asked the most was, ‘How do you know the organizer? Be sure to ask questions that will help you make a connection, after all that is what you are here for. Small talk is an art and will take time to master.

Networking Opportunities

Here is a list of a few  Pittsburgh based conferences and meetups on communicating and technical writing:

Association of Teachers of Technical WritingAccountability in Technical Communication, Pittsburgh, PA March 12-13, 2019

Grants Professionals of Western PA – Grant Writers, Next Meetup – Wednesday November 28, 2018

Pittsburgh Business Times – Holds multiple meetings per month with networking opportunities.

Pittsburgh Technology Council – Holds multiple meetings per month with networking opportunities.

Shadyside Young Professionals, Next Meetup – Monday November 12, 2018

Shut Up & Write! Pittsburgh, PA, Next Meetup – Friday November 9, 2018

Tech Happy Hour – Pittsburgh, Nets Meetup – Wednesday December 5, 2018, Mario’s East Side Saloon, Walnut Street

If would like to suggest another networking event, add it to the comments.