Page layout

Consumer magazine sponsored advertisements and covers rely heavily on professional page layout skills to compete for visual attention.

Page layout is the part of graphic design that deals in the arrangement of visual elements on a page. It generally involves organizational principles of composition to achieve specific communication objectives.[1]

The high-level page layout involves deciding on the overall arrangement of text and images, and possibly on the size or shape of the medium. It requires intelligence, sentience, and creativity, and is informed by culture, psychology, and what the document authors and editors wish to communicate and emphasize. Low-level pagination and typesetting are more mechanical processes. Given certain parameters - boundaries of text areas, the typeface, font size, and justification preference can be done in a straightforward way. Until desktop publishing became dominant, these processes were still done by people, but in modern publishing they are almost always automated. The result might be published as-is (as for a residential phone book interior) or might be tweaked by a graphic designer (as for a highly polished, expensive publication).

Beginning from early illuminated pages in hand-copied books of the Middle Ages and proceeding down to intricate modern magazine and catalog layouts, proper page design has long been a consideration in printed material. With print media, elements usually consist of type (text), images (pictures), and occasionally place-holder graphics for elements that are not printed with ink such as die/laser cutting, foil stamping or blind embossing.

History and layout technologies

Direct physical page setting

With manuscripts, all of the elements are added by hand, so the creator can determine the layout directly as they create the work, perhaps with an advance sketch as a guide.

With ancient woodblock printing, all elements of the page were carved directly into wood, though later layout decisions might need to be made if the printing was transferred onto a larger work, such as a large piece of fabric, potentially with multiple block impressions.

With the Renaissance invention of letterpress printing and cold-metal moveable type, typesetting was accomplished by physically assembling characters using a composing stick into a galley—a long tray. Any images would be created by engraving.

The original document would be a hand-written manuscript; if the typesetting was performed by someone other than the layout artist, markup would be added to the manuscript with instructions as to typeface, font size, and so on. (Even after authors began to use typewriters in the 1860s, originals were still called "manuscripts" and the markup process was the same.)

After the first round of typesetting, a galley proof might be printed in order for proofreading to be performed, either to correct errors in the original, or to make sure that the typesetter had copied the manuscript properly, and correctly interpreted the markup. The final layout would be constructed in a "form" or "forme" using pieces of wood or metal ("furniture") to space out the text and images as desired, a frame known as a chase, and objects which lock down the frame known as quoins. This process is called imposition, and potentially includes arranging multiple pages to be printed on the same sheet of paper which will later be folded and possibly trimmed. An "imposition proof" (essentially a short run of the press) might be created to check the final placement.

The invention of hot metal typesetting in 1884 sped up the typesetting process by allowing workers to produce slugs—entire lines of text—using a keyboard. The slugs were the result of molten metal being poured into molds temporarily assembled by the typesetting machine. The layout process remained the same as with cold metal type, however: assembly into physical galleys.

Paste-up era

Editors work on producing an issue of Bild, 1977 in West Berlin. Previous front pages are affixed to the wall behind them.

Offset lithography allows the bright and dark areas of an image (at first captured on film) to control ink placement on the printing press. This means that if a single copy of the page can be created on paper and photographed, then any number of copies could be printed. Type could be set with a typewriter, or to achieve professional results comparable to letterpress, a specialized typesetting machine. The IBM Selectric Composer, for example, could produce type of different size, different fonts (including proportional fonts), and with text justification. With photoengraving and halftone, physical photographs could be transferred into print directly, rather than relying on hand-made engravings.

The layout process then became the task of creating the paste up, so named because rubber cement or other adhesive would be used to physically paste images and columns of text onto a rigid sheet of paper. Completed pages become known as camera-ready, "mechanical" or "mechanical art".

Phototypesetting was invented in 1945; after keyboard input, characters were shot one-by-one onto a photographic negative, which could then be sent to the print shop directly, or shot onto photographic paper for paste-up. These machines became increasingly sophisticated, with computer-driven models able to store text on magnetic tape.

Computer-aided publishing

As the graphics capabilities of computers matured, they began to be used to render characters, columns, pages, and even multi-page signatures directly, rather than simply summoning a photographic template from a pre-supplied set. In addition to being used as display devices for computer operators, cathode ray tubes were used to render text for phototypesetting. The curved nature of the CRT display however, led to distortions of text and art on the screen towards the outer edges of the screens. The advent of "flat screen" monitors (LCD, LED, and more recently OLED) in early 2010 eliminated the distortion problems caused by older CRT displays. As of 2016 flat panel displays have almost completely replaced CRT displays.[2][circular reference]

Printers attached directly to computers allowed them to print documents directly, in multiple copies or as an original which could be copied on a ditto machine or photocopier. WYSIWYG word processors made it possible for general office users and consumers to make more sophisticated page layouts, use text justification, and use more fonts than were possible with typewriters. Early dot matrix printing was sufficient for office documents, but was of too low a quality for professional typesetting. Inkjet printing and laser printing did produce sufficient quality type, and so computers with these types of printers quickly replaced phototypesetting machines.

With modern desktop publishing software such as flagship software Adobe Indesign[3] and cloud-based Lucidpress,[4] the layout process can occur entirely on-screen. (Similar layout options that would be available to a professional print shop making a paste-up are supported by desktop publishing software; in contrast, "word processing" software usually has a much more limited set of layout and typography choices available, trading off flexibility for ease of use for more common applications.) A finished document can be directly printed as the camera-ready version, with no physical assembly required (given a big enough printer). Greyscale images must be either half toned digitally if being sent to an offset press, or sent separately for the print shop to insert into marked areas. Completed works can also be transmitted digitally to the print shop, who may print it themselves, shoot it directly to film, or use computer to plate technology to skip the physical original entirely. PostScript and Portable Document Format (PDF) have become standard file formats for digital transmission.

Digital media (non-paper)

Since the advent of personal computing, page layout skills have expanded to electronic media as well as print media. E-books, PDF documents, and static web pages mirror paper documents relatively closely, but computers can also add multimedia animation, and interactivity. Page layout for interactive media overlaps with interface design and user experience design; an interactive "page" is better known as a graphical user interface (GUI).

Modern web pages are typically produced using HTML for content and general structure, cascading style sheets to control presentation details such as typography and spacing, and JavaScript for interactivity. Since these languages are all text-based, this work can be done in a text editor, or a special HTML editor which may have WYSIWYG features or other aids. Additional technologies such as Macromedia Flash may be used for multimedia content. Web developers are responsible for actually creating a finished document using these technologies, but a separate web designer may be responsible for establishing the layout. A given web designer might be a fluent web developer as well, or may merely be familiar with the general capabilities of the technologies and merely visualize the desired result for the development team.

Projected pages

Projected slides used in presentations or entertainment often have similar layout considerations to printed pages.

The magic lantern and opaque projector were used during lectures in the 1800s, using printed, typed, photographed, or hand-drawn originals. Two sets of photographic film (one negative and one positive) or one reversal film can be used to create positive images that can be projected with light passing through. Intertitles were used extensively in the earliest motion pictures when sound was not available; they are still used occasionally in addition to the ubiquitous vanity cards and credits.

It became popular to use transparent film for presentations (with opaque text and images) using overhead projectors in the 1940s, and slide projectors in the 1950s. Transparencies for overhead projectors could be printed by some photocopiers. Computer presentation programs became available in the 1980s, making it possible to lay out a presentation digitally. Computer-developed presentations could be printed to a transparency with some laser printers, transferred to slides, or projected directly using LCD overhead projectors. Modern presentations are often displayed digitally using a video projector, computer monitor, or large-screen television.

Laying out a presentation presents slightly different challenges than a print document, especially because a person will typically be speaking and referring to the projected pages. Consideration might be given to:

  • Sizing text and graphics so they can be seen from the back of the room, which limits the amount of information that can be presented on a single slide
  • Using headers, footers, or repeated elements to make all pages similar so they feel cohesive, or indicate progress
  • Using titles to introduce new topics or segments
  • Pacing, so slides are changed at comfortable intervals, fit the length of the talk, and content order matches the speaker's expectation
  • Providing a way for the speaker to refer to specific items on the page, such as with color, verbal labels, or a laser pointer
  • Editing the information presented so it either repeats what the speaker is saying (so the audience can pay attention to either) or only presents information that cannot be conveyed verbally (to avoid dividing audience attention or simply reading slides directly)
  • Use of animation to add emphasis, introduce information slowly, or be entertaining
  • Making the slides useful for later reference if printed as handouts or posted online
Other Languages
čeština: Layout
dansk: Layout
Deutsch: Layout
Ελληνικά: Σελιδοποίηση
Esperanto: Enpaĝigo
français: Mise en page
Bahasa Indonesia: Tata letak
italiano: Impaginazione
Nederlands: Paginaopmaak
polski: Layout (DTP)
português: Layout gráfico
shqip: Faqosje
Simple English: Page layout
suomi: Taitto
svenska: Layout
українська: Верстка
中文: 版面设计