I woke up this morning with a kink in my neck. The kind of kink that can’t be cured. No amount of massaging, twisting, or rolling will get it back in line. And so my head is tilting slightly to the left today. I figure if I rest my chin on my hand, I’ll just look like I’m in deep thought, like I’m really considering what you just said. But in fact, I am too distracted by the discomfort of my unaligned vertebrate. Alignment is one of those things that you don’t notice until it’s out of whack. Alignment makes the structure sound, whether we’re talking about alignment of my spine or the alignment in your design. Let’s start with definitions.
What is Alignment?
You were probably expecting the first couple of definitions. Position, straight line, blah blah blah. "Ground plan" caught my eye though. Alignment provides the structural framework of a design. It’s the starting place. It’s what makes the pieces fit together. Alignment promotes a good flow, keeps things consistent, and sets the stage for your content to neatly fall in place. Alignment makes things look finished.
History of Alignment in Design
Back in the days of Gutenburg and the printing press, every letter and every space had to be aligned and accounted for. Once the letters and spaces are arranged on the composing stick, the lines are placed on the printing press, the space between the lines is increased by inserting rows of lead (hence the name "leading"), and the area surrounding all columns is blocked in using pieces of wood and locked into place. For anyone whose worked on a letterpress, you know it can be bit difficult to get the right size blocks to fit when lines are not aligned. Early on alignment and a grid were necessary. Without them, your book page would not print properly.
Thank you for the art history lesson. Why should I care?
It took 500 years to get from Gutenburg to Tschichold. And now we have the internets! Legibility and readability are as much of a concern today as they were back in 1440. So answer me this:
Yes, I want all of those things! Where do I start?
If you’re the one doing the designing:
If you are reviewing or implementing the design:
That sounds rigid and inflexible.
CRACK, twwwwist, and sssNAP your web site into alignment. It’s the little, finishing touches that make a design magnificent.