Full disclosure: I love layout design. Give me a complex presentation or an annual report any day. I thrive on setting out large bodies of text or brainstorming the best flow for complicated ideas. For me, it's at the heart of my love of graphic design - communication.
Page layouts can be tricky. Finding the balance between too much and too little text - while keeping the information interesting and easy to understand - while utilizing whatever platform you are using to publish to its fullest - is a lot to juggle.
It can be easy to just say it doesn't matter "how" it looks and copy and paste into a template, but don't give up yet! Templates can be great, but your message isn't a template response. You want to present it at its optimum form; whether it's an annual report for donors, training material for new employees, a pamphlet to give visitors about a new exhibition, or an eBook to garner support for your grant proposal.
Your content is king - but don't overlook the importance of how something looks or how your reader will navigate through pages of information.
Things to consider for text-heavy pieces
Read your copy. Know your copy.
I always want to read and understand the information I'm working with backwards and forwards before I do anything else. It takes time, but by doing this, new solutions can present themselves about design or application. This will ensure that the whole experience of viewing and comprehending the information will be seamless.
Once you know your message, work backwards. How will it be seen? Is this an eBook? A pdf that will sent in an email? Physical pages you'll want to print and bind? All of the above? Deciding what your end product will be in the beginning will determine size, shape, and flow of the project. The goal is to present information in a way that's easy to understand and engage with, right? That includes the final presentation. And always, always keep your audience in mind.
Amount of Information
One of the challenges I love about text layout is finding ways to keep it engaging to the reader - whether that's by breaking up text over multiple pages, creating infographics to communicate an idea, or introducing icons or illustrations to reinforce what the text is saying. BUT sometimes you do just need to edit. Think about what you're trying to say. Do you need to delete a repetitive paragraph or include an anecdote? Can an idea that's mostly numbers and stats be better conveyed as a graph?
I never introduce a visual element to a piece without a reason - and if that reason can have relevance to the content, all the better. Researching a topic can open up a whole world of type choices and graphic styles. Is this a science publication? Does the content reference another time in history? Could the colors or font reinforce these details?
Hire a Designer
If you have a piece that needs a holistic approach to communication, consider hiring a designer to provide the expertise on presenting your message. You'll avoid the headache of all that text and end with an impressive and effective piece to communicate your message.
Want to get technical? Check out 10 Tips for Formatting Text-Heavy Layouts
Here is a few example pages of a training PDF that a museum or school might use to teach Visual Thinking Strategies. Because this would be something professionals or educators would use, I wanted to create a sophisticated look that would be easy to print and share. I utilized a "highlighter" effect to emphasize text and pullout quotes, as a visual nod to learning and education.