Utilizing Spacing and Alignment in Design

    Perhaps nothing makes your design project look better than utilizing basic spacing and alignment principles. Cohesive design is often the result of proper spacing and alignment of the various elements on your page. Not taking the time to place things in such a way that your elements provide a singular visual experience can create confusion, the wrong impression, and even disgust in those that see it.

    Let’s take it from the top and work our way through what to look for.

    Less Is More

    When we are trying to get someone’s attention, we are naturally wired to be bold, to exaggerate, or even to be outrageous. We tend to try to pile on the words, turn up the volume, or behave in a negative manner to grab someone’s attention.

    But in print, this thinking often backfires.

    Print is a powerful tool to create interest and bring attention to the message you are trying to convey, but this is usually done with fewer elements, not more. The more elements you have on your page, the more crowded it becomes and the message is lost. Take a look at the cover of the two flyers below.

    It is clear which one grabs your attention and points to the core message. The busy one might be fun to design, but it buries the message under an avalanche of other elements, thus subtracting from the message and general impression of the flyer.

    Study the brochure examples below. Which one grabs your attention and focuses it on the core message. With the “large text” one, you get a sense of someone shouting, where the other one uses the background to simply draw your attention to the message and generate interest.

    The Power of White Space

    White space refers to background space…it doesn’t have to be white. The concept is that the more background space you utilize, the cleaner and more symmetrical your designs will be and the more attention you will draw to that which you want to emphasize. Take a look at the image below. What do you see?

    You see a dot, right? But there is more white space than dot space on the page, and yet no one notices the “white space,” because the white space draws your attention to the dot. Fill that page with 20 other elements and suddenly the dot becomes lost and not nearly as important.

    When trying to convey a message in a flyer, brochure, or other promotional design concepts, it isn’t about how many words you can write, but how you draw attention to those words. White space can help you do that.

    Symmetrical Spacing

    By this, we mean the spacing you utilize between elements such as images and text, headers and textboxes, and elements and margins. Here is a rule of thumb: if you are trying hard to fit everything in, you are probably doing too much. Too much is never enough and always creates busy designs that are not attractive to the eye or distract from your message.

    Consider the two flyers below:

    As you can see, the one flyer is less crowded and because the spacing between images and text is consistent (and greater), the eye sees a clearer contrast as to where elements end and begin, thus allowing the reader to be pulled towards the important parts of your message. Having similar distances between elements gives your design a clean, elegant look that is appealing.

    Alignment Is King

    Along with the last point, you achieve symmetrical spacing with good alignment. Good alignment requires several things:

    1. Similar Sizes – similar elements that are all different sizes look strange. Keep similar elements the same sizes if you can. This means font sizes as well. Headers, body text, titles, should be consistent in font and size.
    2. Know Your Center – Know where the center of the page is horizontally and create balanced designs that work from the center out towards the edges left and right. The human eye sees things that are unbalanced as tilted left and right, so it is important to keep your alignment balanced horizontally.
    3. See the Big Picture – Zoom out of your design project and consider it as a whole. Look at the alignment of elements as presented entirely. Do your elements align in a pleasing way? Is it too busy? Seeing the big picture can give you insight on how to align your elements in a more visually pleasing way.

    When it comes to design, spacing and alignment is key to good design. Don’t rush this crucial aspect of your design. Take the time to do it right.