After learning the formatting and placement of individual letters and words, the next stage was to begin learning about laying out pages correctly. With each area we focus on in this course, I’m amazed by the level of detail and preparation that goes into typography, the idea that a line of text being too long or a rag (the irregular or uneven vertical margin of a block of type) being ‘ugly’ can be enough to put a person off reading an article. Strangely I was so surprised by these rules verging on pedantic, that, for example ‘the optimum length for a line of text is between 39-45 letter-forms’ that they’ve quickly stuck in my mind and I’m unlikely to forget them.
As well as these simple rules, there’s an awful lot to understand about the subconscious processes that go through a readers mind immediately upon viewing a page of text. Hierarchical scanning is the process by which we quickly workout where the most valuable information is positioned, headings, subheading, quotes (usually in bold or italics). Areas are given precedence with visual queues like font size or positioning on the page. What the average person sees as a pleasingly put together page, takes a great deal of preparation and skilled workmanship.
In group we were given some magazines and asked to deconstruct their designs. This included examining the use of positive and negative spaces. The uniform column layouts for each page and simply highlighting where each feature of a given page and it’s placement. As the course progresses, I’m sure this will become a habitual practice and will become second nature. However on our first tries we we struggled. After quickly concluding the layout of our publication (eye magazine) was six columns. David had to set us straight pointing out that some pages contained more and some fewer and so the only explanation was a number that could encompass all of these, namely twelve. This all goes to show, however much I feel I’m getting a firm grasp on the subject, there will always be things to learn.