Design rules for Senior Care are “Key”

When designing branding and marketing pieces for the senior care audience, it’s important to be considerate of the demographic and the aging eye. Font and font size, color, white space and even paper choice are a few of the areas that should be well thought out. Simplicity is key in all of these areas to create clean, effective and easy to follow content for the senior reader.

Below are some guidelines to follow along with some examples from work I did for Omaha-based Key Home Care.

Fonts – the importance of choice, size and spacing

I consider myself a font nerd but with the overabundance of choices, it can be a daunting task to choose the right style.

Fonts for senior care should be kept simple, so that makes it easier. Fonts like Times New Roman and Arial are the top recommendations for the aging eye. That being said, there are many fonts that are similar, so they need not be the immediate go-to – the importance lies with the font structure.

Serif fonts can be used for headlines but should definitely be used for body copy. The serif makes it easier to distinguish each letter. For seniors, it’s important for the serif font to have a consistent stroke width, meaning not varying between thick and thin, which can cause eye confusion.

Sans serif fonts (like Arial or Helvetica) are a good choice, as they are clean and easy to read, especially for short bits of information like headlines. Not all sans serifs are the same. Too condensed or too thin can be hard on any eye, especially one that already has reading challenges.

While font style is important, you also need to consider how you lay out typographic elements. Its recommended to size body copy at 12-15pt. – I have found this sizing can be difficult to fit information given by clients, so I try to use at least 10pt. Line lengths and copy blocks should be kept short – using subheads and photos are a great way to break up information. Letter and line spacing should be “normal” – not too spaced, not too tight. Headlines and body copy should be thoughtfully varied in size – enough to create emphasis but not to confuse the eye.

Decorative and script fonts are hard to read and should be avoided. No more than two font styles (three tops) should be used to avoid visual overload.

Color – contrast wins

Choosing color for the senior reader is pretty straightforward. Bright colors and bright pastels are the best choice for acuity loss, light pastels and soft colors may not be as easy to recognize. Pairing colors too similar in hue can be hard to distinguish, such as blue and teal. Brights with white or a contrasting color are a better choice. Pops of color can help break up information, making it easier to follow.

For text, black on white is always easy to read, but using bright colors can work just as well. Yellow text and soft colors should be avoided as they can be illegible. Using white type on a color block works if it’s large enough and a quick read, such as headlines.

Using blocks of color can provide visual interest but they need to be balanced with proper white space. Heavy amounts of color can make it hard for the reader to consume information, where as white space reduces eye fatigue and helps focus on information.

Paper choice

Short and sweet – avoid glossy paper as it causes reflections, making it hard to read print. Matte and dull papers are the best choice.

Updating the Key Home Care Brand

At first, I saw these rules as limitations, but I quickly turned it into a challenge to not fall too quickly into stagnant, trite design. With Key Home Care, I did not want to play into an older, dated feel, so I chose a modern yet warm feel to their brand update. The warm colors help express the company’s mission of making “compassion key.” I also updated the logo not only to modernize it, but to utilize the rules for seniors – simple, clean and easy to read. This was a fun and rewarding project to work on and I can’t wait for my next senior care project.