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Layout Tips for New Designers

by Margaret Penney | June 23, 2017

If you’re designing something with more than a few pages, like an article or book, you’ll need to focus your design efforts on the layout, first and foremost. Designing a layout that works and also is relatively effortless to create over multiple pages requires a certain amount of know-how. To save you some time and effort, we’ve compiled some essential tips to help you with the layout process.

Une Initiation à la Typographie

Une Initiation à la Typographie

Get the Grid Right

If you want your design to be consistent across all pages you’ll want to set up the grid first and establish some ground rules for your design. To set up the grid you’ll need to add margins, columns, gutters, etc. Applications like inDesign and Illustrator have templates and online resources to help with setting up the grid. If you are working with a standard page size then setting grids up is easier, otherwise you may need to use some math.

Many designers who work regularly on multi-page layouts will store their grids as templates for later use, so that they don’t have to recreate grids every time they work on a new design.

Joan Miro Exhibition Catalog


Joan Miro Exhibition Catalog

Set Some Rules

Once you have the grid set up, it’s time to establish a visual look for your entire document. Decide what the header and paragraph type will be, and set the font and the size of the type. You can use a Master document in inDesign to establish what page numbers will look like and any other design elements that will appear across the document as well.

If you make sure your design is established up front then it makes it much easier to make the design totally consistent throughout.

Establish Hierarchy

As with other types of design projects make sure to establish visual hierarchy with the design. When you are creating the look and feel make sure that the header text is larger and/or in a vibrant color. Use pull quotes to push certain information forward in the design. You can even go through with a text version of the document and highlight which information you want to emphasize in the editorial design.

25 Years ZF Art Foundation

Choose Images for Visual Tone

If you’re working on a large editorial project the illustrative images might already be on commission, otherwise it’s up to you to choose the right photos or imagery for the project. When choosing imagery you’ll want to make sure it has the right visual tone that goes well with the subject matter and existing design elements.

If you’re on a budget you might be working with images from a variety of sources. If this is the case you can try some techniques to make the images more consistent with one another. One common approach used by designers to create consistency in image style is to make all the images grayscale or give them all the same color overlay.

25 Years ZF Art Foundation

Print it Out

Once you have your design in progress, take a moment and print it out to make sure it looks just as good in print as it does on screen. Sometimes there can be some discrepancy between screen and print but you won’t find out about it until after it’s been produced. It’s essential to do test prints of your work to check image resolution, font size, and whether the design has visual balance.




Margaret Penney is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Margaret is a teacher, designer, writer and new media artist and founder of Hello Creative Co.


This blog is powered by Sessions College, the leading online school of visual arts.

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