5 Tips for Printed Form Design

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At Priority Data we see all types of forms; from digital inquiries, to customer loyalty cards, to property insurance application forms. We see how various businesses try to effectively capture information on paper, and while most are very successful, there are some that can always use a little work.

Here are 5 tips to improving your printed forms:

1. Know your audience and understand what information you are trying to capture. A customer loyalty card is an easy way to get information about your customers, but what kind of information should you collect? Basic contact questions will give you a destination for those special promotions; however, questions that revolve around family size or income level may be more personal than what the customer is willing to give up. What relevance would those questions have anyway? Optional surveys can always be sent out at a later time, but for now stick to relevant questions and the basics; asking the wrong question could trigger hesitation and lessen the chance of your customer completing your loyalty card.

2. You don’t necessarily have to be a design pro when creating a form, but please be aware of spacing. It may not seem that important when creating a form in Word or InDesign as you can move everything with a cursor, but allowing a proper amount of space for the customer to fill in the blanks will make your life easier once all that data needs to be entered. A common mistake lies in the form of email capturing; phone numbers and addresses are limited to specific types of characters, but an email address can use a variety of characters. Trying to read an email that reads “808s.3ma1L@mail.com” in half the space provided may result in entering the wrong email address, which can open up a host of other issues such as spamming and blacklisting. Spacing is not just something limited to paper forms, but also fillable PDF forms as well.

3. Use a grid when designing your form. It may sound simple enough to design something that has a number of questions and multiple lines for responses, but making sure everything lines up properly and in order will make your form look professional and add that extra value to your customers in the form of legibility. Everything does not have to line up perfectly, but little things like check boxes, numbered lists, and tables should be lined up perfectly and have straight lines.

4. Typography, What’s that? As defined by Wikipedia “Typography is the art and technique of arranging type in order to make the language it forms most appealing..” Typesetters and Designers have been manipulating type for centuries and thanks to the introduction of the modern word processor, anyone can as well too. Now we can go in-depth and talk about line spacing, tracking, and kerning, however, at its very most basic function typography is about making things legible. It give words and paragraphs space to breathe or condenses them for that fine print. When asking for customer information of any kind be mindful of the font and spacing you allow for it. Are the Serifs in Times New Roman touching each other? Does this make the form too hard to read? Should I use a Sans-Serif font such as Helvetica? Will people take me seriously if I use Comic Sans MS? These are things that many may not consider, but are small things that can go along way once the customer is completing your form.

5. How will this form be filled out? Is this form going to be part of a card that gets mailed back to me? Is this form going to be printed on standard 8.5”x11” paper? Is this going to be an editable PDF form? These are all questions that should be thought of during the designing process, as the size of the form will affect the size of the type, grid, and overall spacing. A small loyalty card sign up form should be printed on a small 2”x3” card as it will just contain basic contact questions while a personal property description page should be printed on letter or legal sized paper due to amount of questions it may contain. If a form is made for entirely online or PDF purposes, then size may not be a main concern as the user can scroll down for additional questions.

In our current digital state the topic of form design is largely devoted to online forms, which can follow similar rules, however, many businesses are still using printed paper forms from anything as small as a rewards signup form to something as complex as an insurance or legal document. As long as people are still printing forms, having some simple universal guidelines can make everyone’s life a little bit easier.


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