Burning Questions of a Young Designer - Layout

miss_purple's picture

Dear Typophiles,

It was with much pleasure that I discovered this website and the wonderful enthusiastic discussions that typographers have here!

As a designer in her first year of professional work, I've encountered a question that has gone unanswered for some time.

Having read books by great designers (Vignelli, Bringhurst etc.) as well as this forum I became enthusiastic about the use of baseline grids in my work. This technique had not been taught at university and once I began to practice using the baseline grid in my personal work I found that I could hardly do without it.

However, at not ONE of the studios I have worked in to date (about 4 or 5 so far)has any designer been in the practice of using a baseline grid. Furthermore, I have found that rather than hard using hard returns, half line gaps etc., most designers specify their paragraph spacing in millimeters. My question is, is using millimeters for paragraph spacing bad practice when line spacing is being specified in another unit (points) as therefore the values for line spacing and paragraph spacing have no relationship?

My second question arises from an art director having asked me to make the y-co ordinate of each object on a page in InDesign a whole number as they believed that this reflected typographic discipline, as opposed to placing objects with a y-coordinate that involved a decimal point, e.g. 5.65. What are your opinions on this?

Sorry for the long post! I would appreciate hearing everyone's thoughts on these two questions!

many thanks!

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

Your art directors are asses!

Since the proper and classic unit of measurement for type is points, so should the measurement for paragraphs be. Otherwise, as you said, there is no relationship. It's very hard to tell what a corps 9 points does with leading 6 mm, but everyone (except your art directors possibly) understands 12 points with leading 14 points. Using points in stead of millimeters gives you way much more control and finesse of what you're doing.

There are some classic formats to paragraph layout, for instance 8 leading 10, 9 leading 11, 10 leading 12, 14 leading 18 et cetera. That's typographic discipline! Possibly this answers your second question too. Because in most cases the leading will be expressed as a whole number, but in points, not in millimeters.

The baseline grid is one of the most important things in layout software, especially when designing magazines or books.

It all comes down to practise of course, so when you're used to using millimeters, no harm done. But for me, as a classicly trained graphic designer, millimeters is not the way to go.

Jennifer E. Dahl's picture

Millimeters??? I can't even imagine why anyone
would use millimeters (and I grew up in Canada).

I'm a firm believer in working on the baseline grid.
That said, I also think you can break rules if you know the rules. There are some times when it's not essential to the solution.

As for y-coordinate relationships...
Precision is key and rarely does something need to sit at Y: 3.2713" instead of 3.3". If multiple people are working in documents it's important to work on A GRID (even if it's not the baseline grid). Tidy design is good practice to adopt (the production team will love you if you make their job easier).

My pet peeve is type set at weird random sizes (9.674583 pt???).
It's just sloppy.

Jackson's picture

I can definitely relate to this. Out in the real world there are tons of very talented designers who don't care about the rules, not so much in a F-You-I'm-David-Carson way either. Blame the software and paper sizes.

My question is, is using millimeters for paragraph spacing bad practice when line spacing is being specified in another unit (points) as therefore the values for line spacing and paragraph spacing have no relationship?

In InDesign the typographic units don't match. It wants you to define leading and type size in points but all of the layout decisions are in mm or inches (margins, tabs, indents, even baseline grid and paragraph spacing). The best thing you can do is find a baseline grid that works in both points and mm or inches.

My second question arises from an art director having asked me to make the y-co ordinate of each object on a page in InDesign a whole number as they believed that this reflected typographic discipline, as opposed to placing objects with a y-coordinate that involved a decimal point, e.g. 5.65. What are your opinions on this?

That sounds retarded. Actually all of this sounds like how designing in powerpoint works.

Igor Freiberger's picture

My opinion is somewhat different.

As type uses points, makes more sense to use leading also in points. This makes easier to identify the relationship between one and other measure. The same is less evident in space after/before paragraphs as these measures are completely independent from type sizes.

Of course, to use points in all measures is more natural to most people as we set type size with this unit since the very first time we got in touch with type. But in countries where the metric decimal system is adopted, people learn to think in meters, centimeters and millimeters since childhood. In this scenario, to use millimeters in measures except type itself is not so strange.

I don't think this a clear matter of right-or-wrong, but much more a question about the measurement system which people are used to. If a designer feels comfortable to use 4,8mm as leading and has the exact notion about which space this represents, there is no problem to prefer mm instead of pt. Difficulties may arise only due to the workflow of this publication. So the real good practice I see here is not to adopt a schema which just you understands or manages.

Although I use type/leading in pt, I prefer to use space before/after in mm. In my brain the notion of space in mm is more exact as I always used them. I do this for many years and never found any problem. Rules? Well, one must respect the rules as they are here for some reason. But one must not blindly follow a rule just because it exists.

Talking about rules, take for example Bringhurst's deep study about page margins and proportions in Elements of Typographical Style. It's a very good set of criteria to define page sizes and margins. But must I adopt them just because there is a geometrical definition behind? These large external and bottom margins Bringhurst himself uses are geometrical results. Anyway, as a reader I look to the book and find these margins excessive. There is very much blank space at bottom of page and this uneven fulfilling is not comfortable for me –and for many other readers, as I verified while teaching design. So, I don't follow these highly geometric rules, even if they are presented by a master as Bringhurst.

As someone already said, you must known the rules, you cannot ignore them –but you may not follow a rule it if there is a good reason to do so.

About the position for graphics, it seems that art director read half of the instructions and mixed something. To put graphic elements at integer positions is correct when you're using a grid with integer increments. Outside this, IMHO just the position of other elements (titles, boxes) need to be observed.

Jean Paul Beumer's picture

As someone already said, you must known the rules, you cannot ignore them –but you may not follow a rule it if there is a good reason to do so.

I heard Gerrit Noordzij once say:

"Learn everything I teach you and after that, forget all about it".

Fontgrube's picture

So you should not simply learn rules but understand (otherwise, do ask) the reason behind the rule. Which a) makes it easier to remember the rule and b) tells you when to break it.

Andreas

miss_purple's picture

Thank you so much for your kind responses everyone!

omashuisje, J Dahl & Jackson - Thanks for confirming my concern about the relationship between units when using mm for paragraph spacing. It seems like this is most important in long document design?

Funnily enough at work at the moment, we are producing the annual report for a major financial institution without a baseline grid and using mm for paragraph spaces.

Freiberger and Andreas - I loved your comments on knowing when to break rules as being as important as knowing the rules. This is very true. I have the feeling at this stage for me, a little typographic discipline might be the way to go before I begin to venture...

Curious29's picture

Hi, everyone. I’ve read much about a new plugin for Photoshop – Divine plugin. However there is no information about it at Adobe’s official site. Have anyone tried Divine? It seems to be very useful for designers and developers.

Igor Freiberger's picture

Although your question is off-topic, here's the link to Divine plug-in:
http://www.divine-project.com/download

You don't find information about this and many other plug-ins in Adobe site because it's not an Adobe product. In the past, Adobe usually did a good job on promoting 3rd-party products related to their own. Nowadays, the company seems to change this approach.

Don McCahill's picture

> Your art directors are asses!

Agreed. However, he/she is the art director, and you are a junior. Don't press too hard in trying to change his/her opinions. Instead, keep reading this forum, and other online web resources, keep learning, but most of all keep your nose clean at work. In a year or two you will be able to move to a place with a real AD, and start to shine as a designer the way you want to.

JamesM's picture

> asked me to make the y-co ordinate of each
> object on a page in InDesign a whole number

I had a corporate client once who had a rule that all coordinates and object sizes in InDesign had to be rounded off the the nearest point (or 1/2 point for type itself), unless there was a good reason not to. Their reasoning was that tiny fractions made the job more complex when communicating or matching sizes & coordinates.

At the time it seemed silly to me, but I've gradually adopted that practice myself. For example, if I draw a border guideline and notice its 2.99 picas from the page edge, I'll make 3 picas.

It just seems a bit more clean and precise, plus it makes life easier if later you're trying to confirm that sizes are consistent from page to page. "I need to remember that column one should always be 20.03 picas wide, and column 2 should always be 11.97 picas wide". Easier to make it "column one is always 20 picas and column 2 is always 12 picas wide".

But obviously design considerations should come first.

James

Bert Vanderveen's picture

It is just a choice you make. Points/pica's rule because that's based in history. The German type-firm Berthold tried to go metric in the seventies and got some following in the European advertising world… And went bust a decade ago.

Digital type should have been the break with the past but amateurs were involved in the first dtp-programs and did not seize the opportunity (and being mostly American anti-metric by definition).

My advice: use metric or use non-metric, but don't mix the systems.

1985's picture

My second question arises from an art director having asked me to make the y-co ordinate of each object on a page in InDesign a whole number as they believed that this reflected typographic discipline, as opposed to placing objects with a y-coordinate that involved a decimal point, e.g. 5.65. What are your opinions on this?

IMHO nonsense!

aluminum's picture

FYI, Curious29 is a spammer/spambot

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