7 Tips For Enhancing Your Value As a Technical Writer by Drawing Great Labels in Adobe Illustrator

You can enhance the value of your services as a technical communicator and writer if you learn how to draw labels.

Thousands of companies out there need labels to market their products.

While some of these labels are rather elaborate and require the skills of a trained graphic artist, not all labels require that level of artistic skill.

There are many businesses in the industrial, manufacturing and hi-tech fields that require simple labels consisting of the product name, product number and description, UL logo, a bar code, and similar basic information that you can easily create and supply in the form of a label.  I have drawn hundreds of such labels myself during my career for satisfied customers although I do not have a professional graphic design background.

Here are 7 useful productivity tips to create such basic labels in Adobe Illustrator:

1] Use the Rectangle Tool (M) for creating a precisely-measured label box. Select the Rectangle tool from your tool box and double click it on your art-board to display the Rectangle dialog box. Enter the precise Width and Height measurements into the respective fields. When you click OK, the Illustrator will create the exact rectangle described in the product specs.

2] Use the Stroke tab (select Window > Stroke from the main menu, or Ctrl + F10) to determine the weight of the label border. To create a label with no border weight (invisible border), select the border box you’ve created and enter “0” into the Stroke Weight field. Then press Enter. To create a dashed-line border, enter appropriate values into the Dashed Line fields and experiment.

3] Use Guide Lines to align your label box and its components. Select View > Show Rulers (or Ctrl + R) from the main menu to display the horizontal and vertical rulers. Then click your cursor on a ruler and drag it down or to the right to create a ruler. Pull it down to its desired position. Use the View > Guides menu to hide, lock or clear all the guides.

4] Use the Align tab (select Window > Align from the main menu , or Shift + F7) to align the various visual components of your label. This comes very handy when aligning label elements too small to be aligned correctly by the naked eye, even when you magnify them by using Illustrator’s navigation controls (Window > Navigator).

5] Use the Type tab (Window > Type, or Ctrl + T) to easily control your font type, font size and style, paragraph alignment, line leading size, kerning, and other useful typographical features of your label text.

6] Always create a Status Log table for your label and save and distribute your label with it. This log should show the date on which the label was created, its version number, its product or archive number (if any), the person who drafted it, the person who approved it (your client or manager), UL certification date or number, and any other relevant label information. Such information becomes priceless to understand what has been done to the label when it is modified at a feature date. It creates accountability and transparency.

7] If your client or printer asks for them, create Crop Marks around the label by first selecting the label’s borders (whether they are visible or not) and then selecting Object > Crop Area > Make from the main menu. To remove the crop marks, select Object > Crop Area > Release.

P.S. The crop marks will determine whether only the label itself (with crop marks) or all the other relevant information on the artboard like the Status Log table also gets published (without crop marks) when you generate a PDF copy of your illustration.

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