Pleasures of Design

Lines – usually called “rules” – can be used to separate or link text. They can also be used to give emphasis.

A rule across a single column or as a box will isolate the text below or within it. A rule across two columns will link the text below.

Rules combined with a heading will give it impact but the effect can be very strong so such devices should be used sparingly. When using rules to achieve emphasis, be sure that they don´t cut the words off from the relevant text, unless that is required.

Whatever weight of rule you choose, use it consistently. Subtle variations in weight, which might be significant to the designer will mean nothing to the reader. If there is a reason to use more than one weight, they should be clearly different, otherwise it will look like a mistake.

Boxed copy is usually something that is related to the main body of the text but is capable of being read in isolation. It will have to be set to a narrower measure to allow for the thickness of the rule and a reasonable space (not less than 6 pt or more than 12 pt) between the text and the box. It sometimes helps to the set the copy a size smaller than the main body of the text.

Too many rules can dominate a page. Use them in a constructive way to help guide the reader around the page. If there are a lot of small boxes on one page, they will be easier to manage and look better if they are grouped together rather than dotted about the page at random. If a box is dropped into the middle of a column it should be at a natural break, otherwise the reader may not be sure where to continue.

Variations on rules, such as tints, shadows and other effects should be used very sparingly. Otherwise they just add to the confusion without improving the appearance of the page.

more ... The opening pages – Part 1