Chapter 4: Layout Sins

13 Amateur Errors

Ch. 4 Layout Sins | White Space is Not Your Enemy

Chapter Outline

  • Sin no. 1: centering everything
  • Sin no. 2: warped or naked photos
  • Sin no. 3: too many fonts
  • Sin no. 4: bulky borders & boxes
  • Sin no. 5: cheated or missing margins
  • Sin no. 6: stairstepping
  • Sin no. 7: 4 corners & clutter
  • Sin no. 8: trapped negative space
  • Sin no. 9: busy backgrounds
  • Sin no. 10: tacky type emphasis
  • Sin no. 11: bad bullets
  • Sin no. 12: widows & orphans
  • Sin no. 13: justified rivers
  • Try this

Keywords | Vocabulary

  • Ascender
  • Baseline
  • Crop
  • Descender
  • Hairline rule
  • Hairline stroke & stem stroke
  • Hanging indent
  • Gain
  • Glyph
  • Inset & offset
  • Loop
  • Orphan & widow
  • Reverse
  • Stroked type
  • Trapped space

Related Unit Assignment

This chapter serves as an intervention to pre-empt the 13 most common bad habits we see in student work.

Key Student Takeaways

  1. Avoid centered layouts.
  2. Keep photographs proportionate, and use hairline rules to border photos that have ambiguous edges.
  3. Stick to two fonts per layout.
  4. Use negative space to group or separate things. If you must use a border or box, choose an understated one.
  5. Be generous with margins, including inset and offset for text and picture boxes.
  6. Keep headlines in a straight line.
  7. Clutter: Bad. Clustering: Good.
  8. Push extra negative space to the outside edges of your layout.
  9. Design backgrounds as negative space. Save tiling for the bathroom.
  10. Think twice about reversing, stroking, using all caps or underlining.
  11. Use real bullets for lists, and use hanging indents to align bulleted lists properly.
  12. Avoid inelegant breaks at the bottoms and tops of legs of type.
  13. Avoid unsightly rivers of negative space flowing through legs of justified type.
  14. The 5 steps to visual success are:
  • Establish a clear focal point.
  • Minimize the number of groupings the eye must scan.
  • Guide the eye with visual sightlines.
  • Set type properly.
  • Use simplicity and restraint.

Quiz Questions

The 5-minute Motivation to Read Quiz

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

Short Answer Quiz Questions

Provide students with a particularly egregious example of graphic design, such as an obviously amateur flyer or ad. Ask students to circle and name the sins the offending layout commits.

Multiple Choice Quiz Questions

Which of the following is not a typographic layout sin?

  1. Justified rivers
  2. Widows and orphans
  3. Thumb space
  4. Stroking

Which of the following is not on the list of 13 layout sins?

  1. 4 corners and clutter
  2. Tacky type emphasis
  3. Trapped negative space
  4. Hairline rules and borders

The 5 steps to visual success are:

  1. Establish margins, columns, visual and cutline, headline and body copy, tags
  2. Capture attention, control eye movement, communicate information, convey emotion
  3. Use a clear focal point, minimal visual groupings, guiding visual sightlines, properly set type, simplicity and restraint
  4. Research a clear objective, adequate budget, copy collaboration, client/boss approval, timely turnaround