Proportion: Alleviating Indecision

Designed in Adobe Illustrator CS3; font: Univers

Note: This post is really intended for new/aspiring designers who work for the Maroon and/or The Mark.

It might sound silly (and irritating) at first, but dividing your page proportionally/geometrically has real advantages. Apart from the added precision it affords, it'll provide you with a better idea of how to approach a blank page and compose your designs, thereby dispatching much of the frustration/indecision that would ordinarily obtain; in the long run, it will produce palpable improvements in the quality of your compositions. This is understandably tedious if you're laying out a large number of pages with diverse margins, but there's really no excuse not to do it if you're working on a single flier.

The design above features rectangles derived from the proportions determined below; the octagon that circumscribes [sic] the shape above was drawn ex post, but it is quite possible to determine your margins by using comparable regular polygons. Ordinarily, a cross-type division will suffice; it'll give you page centers every bloody time, and should be the first thing you do.

That said, you should not obey these guides to the line/letter, unless you're doing a very, very precise, geometric design. In the meantime, you should consider them as general parameters or reminders, which also means that you should keep them as concise as possible. I'll post a few more common/canonical page designs in the future.

Addendum: It occurred to me that proportion has a palpably different meaning in illustration, where it signifies the relative measurements between points or features, depending on one's eye-level, field-of-view/perspective, and an object's placement. Still, illustrators will have to make use of proportions in page design when doing layout. All [good] photographers have a keen sense thereof, and I highly recommend taking up photography to cultivate an intuitive understanding of how the principle of record operates (it's also a lot of fun, if nothing else).

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