Advanced Layout Design Course | Sessions College

Advanced Layout Design

Tools and techniques for creating killer design layout, spreads, and projects

Whether it's a magazine spread, a subway poster, or even a Web page, nothing connects or communicates like a great layout. Layout design, the art of what goes where on a page or editorial spread, is a creative challenge for any graphic designer.

In this intensive 3-lesson course, you'll tackle advanced-level layout projects that push your design skills to the limit. You'll learn how to build strong foundations for your page design, explore creative applications for lines and shapes, and discover how to break the rules while maintaining the underlying structure of a page. Case studies will analyze carefully selected examples of layout designs considered to be classics of graphic print design. Course projects include a 4-page magazine spread, a book jacket design, and a calendar.

This course is geared to intermediate/advanced graphic design students looking to stretch out and add distinctive print designs to their portfolios. Principles learned in this class can be applied to any layout design, from print to packaging, the Web, and beyond.

Course Instructor(s):

Sessions design instructor Boris Margolin

Boris Margolin  is a logo, branding, and Web specialist with his own design company.

Course content developed by Thom McKenna.
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To take this course you'll need:

  • Computer with Internet connection (56 Kbps modem or faster).
  • Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop or equivalent programs.
  • Basic experience in graphic design and the software packages needed for this course.
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Course Objectives:

Students learn how to:

  • Develop an understanding of the structural foundations of layout design, creating a grid and placing fundamental elements in a page layout.
  • Create an editorial layout for a 4-color design magazine, using a grid system as a foundation: manuscript, column, modular, or hierarchical.
  • Identify and apply geometric approaches to layout design, using ratios, proportions, lines, and shapes.
  • Create page layout templates using geometric proportions: golden rectangle, golden spiral, or root 2 rectangle.
  • Develop an understanding of the principles of balance, negative space, and focal points in a composition.
  • Develop an understanding of techniques for unifying a page design, including framing, page bleeds, layering, and proximity.
  • Explore and apply alternative layout techniques and approaches to composition.
  • Design a calendar using alternative layout techniques and/or approaches to composition.
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Course Outline

LESSON 1 Structural Foundations

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, the basis of creative layout design is organization. Lesson One explores the structural foundations of layout design—how designers use grid systems to unite text, images, and other page elements within an overall visual communication. Case studies on A.M. Cassandre and Josef Müller-Brockmann explore how the masters constructed fluid designs on firm foundations. You'll learn how elements such as margins, markers, modules, and flowlines help to unify a page or spread. Then you'll examine applications for the common grid systems used by designers: manuscript grid, column grid, modular grid, and hierarchical grid. In the exercise, you'll apply these concepts to the design of a 4-page magazine spread.

LESSON 2 Geometric Design

Order is a necessary element in all design and a complement to creativity. Lesson Two explores creative applications for a geometrical approach to page composition. Classic proportional systems are explored, including such as the golden section, golden spiral, Fibonacci sequence, root 2 rectangle, and the rule of thirds. You'll also investigate how to use lines and shapes as graphic elements to create a sense of order. Lines, curves, circles, angles, bars and squares, and patterns are all explored as possible tools for structuring a layout. The lesson concludes with a discussion on the importance of balance, negative space, and strong focal points. In the exercise, you'll apply these principles to a book jacket design.

LESSON 3 Structure and Deconstruction

Lesson Three looks at ways of moving beyond traditional layout structures and using a more intuitive, experimental approach. Unconventional structural approaches discussed will include contextual framing, page bleeds, layering, proximity, and hypnotic wandering. Type layout concepts discussed will include 3D type, chunking, text columns, and the vexed question of legibility. Finally, you'll explore some Post-Modern layout techniques: freeform, surreal collage, 3D environments, fragmentation, graffiti, cutouts, overprinting, and conceptual design. In the final project, you'll select an avant-garde technique and apply it to a challenging calendar design project.

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student layout work
Book cover design by Francesca Sylvestri

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