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Understanding Alignment in Graphic Design

September 22, 2021 In Design

You’ve aligned your sales objectives with your marketing strategy, and your marketing strategy with your design needs. Way to go! Now, it’s time to make sure your designs are aligned, as well.

Alignment refers to the way various elements in a graphic design are placed in relation to each other. When your materials feature good alignment, designs look more organized and have a structure that is easy for readers to follow. Your documents end up looking clean and professional, as opposed to unaligned designs, which can look scattered and confusing.

To help you ensure that you’re aligning all design elements as strategically as possible, we’ll break down the different kinds of alignment, when to use each, and give some useful tips for when you’re feeling stuck.

Alignment of Elements on the Page

First off, you need to decide how you want to align all of the elements on together on the page. You have two main choices here: you can use an edge alignment, or a center alignment. Edge alignment means that the elements will all touch along the same “edge” of the page, whether that be the left, right, top, or bottom edge. On the other hand, center alignment means all elements will be placed in relation to imaginary lines that run through the middle of the page. The line can run top-to-bottom, or left-to-right.

The good news: your design doesn’t have to be either edge aligned or center aligned. You can use both strategies in different places in your design. For example, it may make sense for a main header and photo to be center aligned, but edge alignment could work better for longer blocks of text and supporting design elements. Whichever alignment you choose, try to keep it balanced between both sides of the page.

A balanced design means that all elements are distributed evenly across the page. Balance can be symmetrical, keeping the layout looking nearly identical on both left and right sides of the page, or asymmetrical, allowing elements of different size and weight to be placed freely without creating a lop-sided design. For example, to create asymmetrical balance, a feature that looks “heavier,” such as a large photo or dark color, might be placed next to lighter elements, like text blocks or a featured quote. Asymmetrical balance allows you to get creative with your alignment choices while also strategically leading the reader through the design.

Alignment of Text

If your design contains blocks of text, it’s also important to consider how you want to align the words within your paragraphs. Remember when we discussed overall center alignment earlier? You can also choose to use center alignment for your text, which will keep the text block anchored on top of the center margin. This kind of alignment is ideal for headers and titles, because the centered placement tends to attract a lot of attention. However, using center alignment for longer blocks of sentences can make text hard to read, which means you may want to choose a different alignment for those sections. 

Justified alignment ensures all text lies neatly inside set borders on either side of the page. This design makes sure margins are all the same across your document, which keeps your design looking tidy. Justified alignment is ideal for longer paragraphs, or materials like catalogs or magazines that contain multiple columns of text. For shorter text blocks or phrases, though, justified alignment can result in large gaps between letters or words, which may not look as appealing.

The last option is left or right alignment, which sets all text flush against the left or right margin of the page. Left alignment is a popular choice – it’s how books and most web pages are laid out. Of course, that means left alignment is quite familiar and easy to read for the audience. Right alignment is used less frequently, since it goes against our typical left-to-right reading style, which makes it better suited for short, attention-grabbing phrases and sub-headings.

Alignment and balance are the keys to creating cohesive, readable, and visually interesting graphic designs. If you’re struggling to use alignment or balance in your work, reach out to us and we’ll connect you to a marketing partner who can help perfect your materials.