Graphic Design for Beginners: Alignment


Alignment is crucial because it directly affects the "balance" of your project. When things are aligned with each other, the piece as a whole looks cleaner and more organized. Most people think of left, center, or justified paragraphs when they think of alignment - and these are really important - but it's best to think of it in a broader sense. Alignment can be applied to any of your visuals, including shapes and images. It is making sure things are straight or "even" with other elements, including ones that are different types (e.g. aligning text with an image).

For example:

In the example above, the first image and block of text are aligned properly. If you look closely, the second two are not. You may be thinking that the text is barely unaligned and no one except an anal retentive graphic designer would notice that. And perhaps you are right. But trust me - if you continually have barely misaligned elements in your work that you think are not a big deal, it will look untidy and unprofessional.

Why? Look at the right side again. This alignment issue is so slight to the average viewer that it literally looks like an accident. And when it comes to graphic design, doing something on "accident" really just means "doing something without paying close attention." Hence, untidy and unprofessional. I use the example above because this is the most common mistake of non-designers or beginner designers - you have two elements together and almost nailed it. But you didn't. It missed the mark.

So I want to show why it's important that you don't casually let one act of laziness go unchecked. Here's an example of lazy alignment throughout an entire piece:

Your initial impression without focusing on the details might be positive. Perhaps you like the images and colors. But there's actually quite a few things wrong here that can be easily cleaned up. If we take a look at the natural, visual lines that are created by this piece (which I have placed in blue), we see that almost none of the project's elements are properly aligned. This makes the page look quite a disorganized and more like a community newsletter you would get for free in the mail.

If we fix the alignment issues, we can immediately see how much more precise this page could be, leading to a more polished design.

Now you can see how cleanly all the elements fit into the visual "lines" created by this piece, and it's starting to look much more professional.

The key to alignment is to pay attention to the details. Align the elements that should be aligned together, and don't make things look like you did them on accident. Be intentional. If you specifically want something to stand out by being unaligned, do it on purpose and do it obviously.

In the full page example I used, "Adventure is here" is not aligned to the left or right like everything else. I wanted it to stand out. But in the first attempt where everything was misaligned, you honestly can't quite tell if it's supposed to be on the right or in the center. So while it's ok to break the mold and center it when nothing else does the same, do it intentionally and make a statement. Place it big and bold in the center if you want. On purpose.

Happy aligning,

P.S. After this you will probably start to develop a mild to moderate form of what I can GDOCD with everything you see - Graphic Designer OCD. My suggestion: stay away from coupons, cheap ads, and church bulletins.

Seriously. You will hate it.