Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design - learn more

Online Layout Design Course

Layout Design

Whether it's a magazine spread, a subway poster, or even a Web page, nothing connects or communicates like a great layout. In this advanced layout design course, you'll tackle advanced-level projects that push your design skills to the limit. Working with a design pro, you will explore creative applications for lines and shapes, learning how to use or break the rules of layout. Course projects include a 4-page magazine spread, a book jacket design, and a calendar.

Online layout design course 

Layout project by student Joella Frahm.

Tools and techniques for killer layout designs

Instructor-Led Course

Feedback from design professionals

Creative Projects

Stretch your skills, grow your portfolio

Learn at Your Own Pace

Self-paced and scheduled programs available

Course Outline

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.

Project - Magazine spread

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 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.

Project - Book jacket cover

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.

Project - Calendar design

Course Outcomes

Students in this course can expect to learn 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.

Course Registration

Interested in this course? Scheduled and self-paced enrollment options are available.

Course LevelClasses startRegistration FeeTuition
Degree course
1.5-credit course, 7 weeks
Jan, Apr, Aug$200$510/credit
Vocational course
30 hour course, 3 months access
Enroll today, start tomorrow$50$619
* Registration fees are nonrefundable after 5 days from enrollment. All tuition includes a digital materials fee for updates to course or program content.

Software and Supplies

To take this course you'll need:

  • Computer with Internet connection.
  • Adobe Photoshop and InDesign.
  • Basic experience in the above software.

Who’s Teaching

Course developed by Thom McKenna

Getting Started

Enrolling online is easy and convenient.

Chat with our knowledgeable admissions staff to select course and program options.

Complete your registration entirely online.

Related Programs

Did you know? You can take this course as part of an award-winning certificate or degree program.