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DESIGN DEPARTMENT
Keep Your Eye on CARP

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Contrast, Alignment,
Repetition, and Proximity: The acronym derived from these words encapsulates
the basic principles behind all design. If you do not use these principles
carefully, however, the letters may be reordered into an expletive describing
the particular design you have created.

 

Contrast<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> means avoiding too much similarity. Design elements
should reflect differences in structure, size, and weight (e.g., a headline
should be larger and darker). Avoid a bland uniformity in which everything
looks almost the same. When trying to make elements contrast, be bold.
Otherwise, the viewer will assume you tried to make the elements match but
failed.

 

Contrast often supplies the most
distinctive visual attraction on a page.

 

Alignment<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> means avoiding random placement of elements on a
page. Elements need to follow a plan. Every element on the page needs a visual
connection with every other element. No element should be placed in a way that
breaks up the planned alignments.

 

Alignment creates a clean,
sophisticated look and is often used to guide the reader through a book. Thanks
to alignment, the reader’s eye learns where to seek the next element.

 

Repetition<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> involves where elements are placed throughout a
document. You can repeat color (lightness or darkness), lines, illustrations,
shapes, textures, and spatial relationships to develop the visual organization
and to create a sense of unity.

 

With similar elements used in the
same manner, the reader’s eye is directed to the important parts, and the
reader keeps moving through the document in an orderly fashion.

 

Proximity<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’> involves the way that elements relate to one another.
When elements are placed close together, they become one visual unit rather
than several separate units. Proximity provides another way to create
organization and eliminate clutter.

 

The uninitiated seem to fear
leaving empty space and tend to place elements helter-skelter around a page.
When the elements are scattered, the page seems disorganized, and communication
is hampered.

 

Group related items together.
Place them close enough to each other so that the group is discerned as a
single visual unit. Elements that are not related should not be in close
proximity.

 

Proximity gives the reader an
instant visual clue to the organization of the page.

 

This article is derived
from Book Design and
Production: A Guide for Authors and Publishers
by Pete Masterson.
To order, visit www.aeonix.com, or order through Amazon.com

 

Pete Masterson—an independent
book and cover designer since 1996—got involved in publishing and
printing in 1982, when he pioneered a computerized production and on-demand
printing system for railroad tariffs. In the past, he owned a print shop,
managed a typesetting service working with major publishers, and supervised
graphics and publication production at NASA Ames Research Center.

 

 

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