Feb 10, 2011

Design Basics Part 3: The Alignment Principle

This is the third post in the series 'Design Basics'. Read the first post here and the second post here. This series is based on Robin Williams' book 'The Non-Designer's Design Book'.

Design Principle #2: Alignment

What does it mean?
Alignment is the adjustment of an object in relation to other objects (Wikipedia). You are aware of left alignment (often called left justify) and right alignment. By alignment here, we mean the way every element is positioned in comparison to the other element.

What is the Alignment Principle?
Every element on the slide should have a visual connection with other elements on the slide. A slide which has all the elements aligned gives a more cohesive look. It appeals more to the eye.
Robin suggests that every element should be aligned in the same manner. If the slide header text is aligned left, the body text should also be aligned left. Have a look at the image below. The slide on the left is the most common thing to do. Robin urges us not to. The slide on the right gives a more 'balanced' look.

Robin also urges us to avoid center alignment at all times. Choose right or left but not center because it is too old style and dull. Right or left alignment gives a more sophisticated look. I am not sure why she is so against center alignment. Personally, I am not totally convinced. But then she is the expert, not I.

In the example below, center alignment is the worst choice but that does not mean it is worse everywhere. I personally need to study more examples before I can buy her point fully.
When there are text and a (related) image on a slide, align the text to unite it strongly with the image. Take a look at this example:

It is very clear which slide looks better. The text which has been right-aligned creates unity. It strengthens the lines of the book and creates a strong alignment.

Alignment in real life?
After browsing scores of paper ads on the website afaqs.com I figured out that most ads have the basic alignment in place but they have not followed the rule to the last word. Which I guess is fine. There is one ad which kind of follows the principle to the last word. Here it is.

The header, the body text, and the bottom text are all right aligned. There is a strong structure which is visible because of this alignment throughout.
What are the benefits of alignment?
Overall, aligning all the elements to each other makes the various elements part of the same design. All the elements appear united thus making the slide look better and appeal more.

In the next post of the series, we will talk about Repetition. To read about the first principle Proximity click here.

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