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“Any one element affects how all of the other elements are perceived." –Amy Arntson

Remember: We are problem solvers. What is the solution? What is a solution?

Layout: It is a balancing act. It is a balance of:

>> Apple System 7 advertisement: Balance. Contrast for a purpose, to contrast productivity with the effort required to be so productive.

Sarah (my daughter): "Am I small?"
Dad (me): "Compared to what? An elephant or an ant?"

"Big" and "small" are meaningless in abstract.

Visual rhythm: Life itself is based on rhythm, tempo. Moon phases. Tides. Biorhythms. Calendar (weeks, years). Cities have rhythms. The rhythm is based on repetition, of shapes, colors, textures, relationships.

For example:

Think: How do I communicate movement, activity, on a static, 2D surface. Even with type.

TEMPO whooshing by.

Think of your favorite publication. What kind of rhythm does it have? How is that rhythm communicated?
New York Times | Wired magazine | Cosmo | Transworld Skateboarder | Time or Newsweek

What libraries of elements do they use? What kinds of layouts do they present? What is consistent throughout the publication? What kind of tone do they have? How linked are all of these with audience?

So how do you lay out a page? Grids

You choose or develop a visual rhythm and theme, you plan it and plot it out on a grid. Plan all the space. Copy, photos, illustrations, logos, all are subservient to the structure you have in mind.

Problem: There are a lot of grids to choose from. 3-column. 100-square.



The complexity of the grid should depend on the complexity and quantity of design elements.

Look at several ads (Apple, Louisville Ballet, design house): What kind of grid did each of these require? What rhythm does each have? How did the layout establish that rhythm?

Ballet: What adjectives come to mind? What does the ad communicate?

Design house (instruments): same questions

The more grid elements you have, the more choices that will need to be made, so keep it as simple as possible.


Path: Guides the eye through the elements. To start down a path, you need an entry point, a gate, a focal point. Obvious point of entry that inspires and motivates the reader to keep going down the path. Simple paths. Complex paths. Ballet ad is a brutally simple path. Apple is more complex.

Z sequence

Our eyes sweep the page in a Z sequence, seeing images first, then headlines and display copy, finally text.

Piece of paper: List all the decisions that were made to create the ballet ad. As many as you can possibly think of. Choices.

Newspaper layout

In newspapering, good layouts will:

• Signal important stories through placement, headlines, photography
• Facilitate reading from column to column
• Direct the reader, especially with jumps
• Bunch related content so reader doesn’t have to go fishing
• Avoid confusion >> what goes with what
• Keep readers interested
• Facilitate scanning

Newspapers, magazines, newsletters are graphic art forms. So, they need three things:

Define these

Balance: Equilibrium. The appearance of rest. What we do not want is a vague feeling of uneasiness or discomfort. So, you don’t want it to be top-heavy: a big foto on top, drawing attention, then little to support it below. Each page has a vertical axis. You can use either symmetry or asymmetry. Symmetry for traditional. Asymmetry for playfulness, informality, attitude.

Contrast: Variety, interest, drama, unpredictability. Emphasis. Its enemy? Dullness, boredom, sameness. The metaphor here is a symphony. Adagio. Overture. Allegro. There is consistency and progression, but not boring repetition.
Your tools:

• Color
• Headlines
• Typeface
• Foto sizes
• Placements (isolation, clusters, symmetry, asymmetry)

Borders (uneven borders, for example) and edges (even ragged ones)

Shapes (including unusual ones)


Unity: Synthesis. Harmony. Cohesion. Gestalt: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We see the whole first, then we start breaking it down into parts. Think about your typefaces, stylebook application, kind and type of artwork you use, structure and architecture.

The process:


©2007 CarrollinaWorks
Last Updated: October 2007
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