Constructive criticism of a missions manual

jpcody's picture

I was recently tasked with designing a manual for a Christian missions organization. With no style guide, no brand guidelines and no solid precedent, I had near-complete freedom.

I'd love to hear what you think of the layout, typeface-selection, and heck, even cover design. I've never done a project this long and in-depth before (in terms of amount of information and page length), so I'd love to hear how I can do better in the future.

I made a couple of decisions that were strange, and I look forward to allowing you to critique my reasoning in follow-up comments, but I hope to hear how it strikes you without first hearing my justifications.

It's a hair over 1 MB, so you can visit the .pdf in a browser at:

Thanks in advance for your thoughts, typophiles!

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Is that ps. Ratio you are using? I just saw it, and it looks great. What concerns me is that both that one, and Klavika on the frontpage are very techy designs. (I’m currently considering both for a technology firm.) They’re not really something I’d use for an organization primarly concerned with humans. Also, mixing two sans serifs with a very different structure looks really messy. You should look for a serif and a sans with similar structure/skeleton, or perhaps just make better use of the different weights/widths in a single font family.

riccard0's picture

To tell the truth, I downloaded the PDF yesterday, then forgot about it. When I opened it today, my first reaction skimming through it was "why on earth I downloaded the manual for some sci-fi war (video)game?". ;-)

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Those dress codes sure sound wierd. Would Jesus get to join your church, wearing his rags?

jpcody's picture

@frode and @riccard0, thanks so much for the feedback. It really means a lot that you'd take time to give me feedback on this.

It is ps Ratio.

I wanted to go with a clean sans for this to convey simplicity, and I likely over-reacted to a certain extent against the tendency to make all non-profit materials feel "rough" or "grungy." I loved the clean readability of both Klavika and ps Ratio.

Originally, I was going to go with Klavika for headers and Museo for body copy, but the Klavika felt too cold and the Museo felt too quirky. So in the end, I went with Ratio. I thought it conveyed a human, approachable quality with its heavy weights (specifically the downward serif on the upper end of the "C" and the low mean line on the "A" and "E") I stayed with Klavika for the cover, as Ratio felt a little *too* quirky and unprofessional to be the face of the entire manual.


What are some clean and professional, yet human, pairs you guys would suggest in lieu of the ones I chose?


As far as the dress code, I should clarify that this isn't for a church or for the right to show up on Sundays :) It's for high school students who will be visiting foreign countries (principally South America and Africa), so it's much more an issue of being extra careful to not violate their mores and offend them.

Frode Bo Helland's picture

Since you have a young audience, how about something like Gloriola?

jabez's picture

Some quick thoughts on the layout:

- Navigational elements
What's really lacking for me are elements that assist the reader in quick referencing, as well as identify which section he/she is currently reading. I find myself getting lost quite easily.

- Look out for awkward breaks
Example: Pg 32: I'd probably move the whole paragraph over.

- Space for writing
Is there a reason why you have decided not to have writing space for reflections and/or personal notes? Is the manual is meant to be passed on or reused?

- Format: Digital or print?
If this is for digital distribution, that would answer my question about writing space.

- Folio
In print, the folio on the left page will end up pretty near the page gutter.

jpcody's picture

I just had to get this in the hands of the communication department, so it's out of my hands. I'd love to keep the conversation up so I can get better for the future, though! Thanks again for all the help you've been giving me so far. It's my first typesetting project, so I really need it.



Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

-Nav: My hope was that the bottom next to the page numbers would be enough assistance. Do you feel I just need more prominent placement of this, or additional navigation?

-Spaces: The idea is that they'll write in their own journal rather than in the book to encourage them to use more space.

-Breaks: Great call on this p. 32 break. I totally missed that.

-Format: print

-Folio: I'm not sure I follow here. Each page will be printed independently, one-sided, no left-and-right setup. What do you mean by "the folio on the left page?"


Frode, great suggestion on Gloriola. Can't switch away from Ratio at this point, though. I've marked the font to come back from it, it's really nice. I also updated the coloring and switched the cover font to Ratio as well. I think getting rid of Klavika certainly helps some.

See an updated version here:

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