Chapter 6: Layout

Where to Put Visuals & Type for Impact

Chapter 6 Layout | White Space is Not Your Enemy

Chapter Outline

  • How do I know where to put my stuff?
  • All about aspect ratio
  • The ingredients of the grid
  • Where do I put the rest of my stuff?
  • Creating hierarchy
  • Multiple-page layouts
  • Exit here
  • Try this
  • Layout ideas you can swipe

Keywords | Vocabulary

  • Action safe area
  • Alley
  • Aspect ratio
  • Bleed
  • Byline
  • Deck
  • Folio
  • Footer area
  • Greek text or greeking
  • Gutter
  • Header area
  • Live area or safe area
  • Lower third area
  • Modular page design
  • Mug shot
  • Navigational (signs, tools), Web
  • Sidebar
  • Spread
  • Title safe area
  • Tombstoning
  • Trim
  • Visual hierarchy

Related Assignment

This layout chapter launches what we call the four “beefy” chapters on layout, type, color and photos/illustrations. Here in “layout,” we expand on the WET layout and build on grids (literally, if you pardon the pun). We cover laying out a single design, multiple designs on the same page/screen and a design requiring multiple pages/screens. The idea is to help students figure out how to create a visual hierarchy as they lay out their “stuff,” including focal point, type, additional visuals and negative space.

Key Student Takeaways

  1. Account for the layout dimensions and format before you begin any design project. For screen layouts, this means accounting for “aspect ratio,’” the ratio of screen width to height. You can’t design a square and expect it to fill well into a horizontal rectangle, whether screen or page.
  2. Once you account for format/aspect ratio, establish the layout boundaries, including live/safe area, margins, headers, footers, etc. More complex layouts benefit from grid systems that include columns (perhaps horizontal as well as vertical columns) and alleys of negative space between columns.
  3. After establishing a unifying grid, then next choosing and positioning an interesting focal point are key to effective layout. The focal point is the layout’s eye entry point or visual “Welcome” sign.
  4. Greek text is dummy copy you can set and style to look like the real copy. This enables you to make typography and design decisions before the real copy is available.
  5. To create visual hierarchy, increase the size of important items and position them toward the top of the layout. Conversely, decrease the size of less important items and place them toward the bottom of the layout.
  6. Pictures are like arrows so be sure they’re pointing in the right direction. Additionally, don’t position visuals where they interrupt the flow of reading, and don’t flip photos.
  7. When using multiple visuals, think about whether you want to create a visual hierarchy of differing sizes or a rhythmic pattern of similar sizes. Either way, shoot for visual balance.
  8. Remember to avoid trapped negative space.
  9. Using a grid and modular page design simplifies the job of laying out multiple stories, ads, sets of content, etc., on the same screen or page.
  10. Add a sidebar of information related to the main content to give a screen or page visual variety and interest.
  11. When the design requires multiple pages (whether electronic or print): maintain visual unity, make body copy visually inviting and provide navigational signs to keep readers from getting lost.

Quiz Questions

The 5-minute Motivation to Read Quiz

Share three things you learned from the reading. Be specific.

Short Answer Quiz Questions

What is a grid, and how do you establish one?

What is aspect ratio, and why is it important in graphic design and layout?

Describe one method of achieving visual hierarchy.

Explain modular page design.

Offer a piece of advice for laying out a design that requires multiple pages or screens.

Multiple Choice Quiz Questions

Aspect ratio refers to

  1. The dimensions of a screen measured diagonally from corner to corner
  2. The ratio of screen width to height
  3. The ratio of parallax from viewer to focal point
  4. The format’s safe or live area before trim size but after bleed

Which of the following represents a grid?

  1. The flat dimensions of a pocket folder before trimming
  2. The gutter in a 2-page spread
  3. A 4-column website
  4. A letterboxed Hollywood film formatted for a TV screen

In modular page design

  1. The mathematical principle of 1:1.618 results in universally appealing layouts
  2. Each story is arranged into a rectangle, and the rectangles are arranged on the grid of the page
  3. Conspicuous chunks of negative space are isolated in the interior of the design to separate items
  4. A separate block of type with a solid background, a stroked outline or an ample border is positioned adjacent to the main copy

When laying out a single design across multiple screens or pages

  1. Maintain visual unity and provide navigational signs to keep readers from getting lost
  2. Put the smallest story at the bottom of the first page
  3. Arrange multiple visuals into a grid-like pattern of uniform size before choosing the main focal point
  4. Add a little something unexpected, such as a flipped photo, to keep viewers amused