dissecting design: let’s talk about unequal spacing
This is Ashley, and today I’m going to talk about using unequal spacing as a design principle.
I think we’re probably all familiar with the rule of thirds, and the idea of not placing the subject of a photo directly in the centre of the rectangular frame. Placing design elements somewhere other than directly in centre leads to a more exciting, and visually creative design.
This same idea can be applied to our layouts!
Centred, balanced design can be a very bold and conscious choice that can work well in many circumstances. But recognizing that unequal spacing can lead to exciting and creative designs can make your work even more fun and polished. Like any other new skill, thinking carefully about placement and how to create intentionally unequal spacing will at first take attention and effort, but over time will become a natural choice.
First, what is intentionally unequal spacing? Intentionally unequal spacing is the design choice to place an important design element on a layout so no space between it and the four sides of the layout are the same. At the same time, your placment choice is intentional, because it’s going to follow other design-conscious rules: you didn’t just slap that photo down on the page without thinking about what else is going on with that layout.
To illustrate this design choice, let’s look at two great pages submitted to the Cocoa Daisy layout gallery, both using the November kit, Stargazing.
The first page is by Martha Bonneau, called Thankful:
As you can see, the placement of the photo and the lovely layered cluster beneath it nicely follows the rule of thirds, with the photo placed approximately 2/3 of the way across from the left side of the page. The vertical placement sits the subject’s smiling face almost exactly in the middle of the page from top to bottom, a very intentional choice.
However, the arrangement of the entire central portion of the layout was intentionally placed unequally from all four sides of the page:
and although measurements A and B (as marked above) are close in size, they are not entirely equal. This off-centre placement creates a dynamic feeling page that is exciting to look at, but doesn’t overwhelm the viewer with too much movement. The choice to place the photo directly vertically centred in the page really grounds the photo and ensures it will be the viewer’s focus.
Next up, a page by Marti called “Our Story“:
Marti’s page is complex, but still uses the rule of intentionally unequal spacing — especially evident in the main photo.
Although the distance of A and D are similar, and B and C are similar to each other, they are actually not equal and this inequality creates a very high-energy layout. The similar placement of the second photo helps reinforce this energy, but because it is more evenly centred between the top and right side of the layout, and between the bottom and left of the layout, it has a calmer dynamic and doesn’t compete with the main photo for the viewer’s first focus and attention.
Both of these wonderful layouts by our Cocoa Daisy subscribers nicely demonstrate how to use intentional unequal spacing on a page to create a design that is both balanced but also dynamic and visually interesting.
I love that both of these pages also used a very balanced and centred design choice to provide a grounded feel. Martha centred the photo vertically on her page, and Marti placed the central portion of her layout on an even mat of patterned paper. The combination of unequal spacing and equally spaced design choices makes these layouts really work — they have dynamic and creative energy but are grounded so they don’t feel chaotic or overwhelming to look at.
Do you use unequal spacing on your pages? Maybe you do and didn’t realize it! If you haven’t, will you give it a try on your next page? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this design principle and to see any pages you’ve made that you’ve made employing unequal spacing!