Page layout

Type com­po­si­tion was about pick­ing the right char­ac­ters. Text for­mat­ting was about the vi­sual ap­pear­ance of those char­ac­ters. Page lay­out is about the po­si­tion­ing and re­la­tion­ship of text and other el­e­ments on the page.

In fine print­ing, ty­pog­ra­phers usu­ally get to choose the page size of their doc­u­ments. But you don’t—most of the doc­u­ments a writer prints will be on stan­dard printer pa­per. And on the web, your reader es­sen­tially chooses the size.

That’s no rea­son to ac­cept medi­oc­rity. Eng­lish artist and printer William Mor­ris fa­mously re­belled against mech­a­nized, mass-pro­duced ty­pog­ra­phy—in the 1890s. He went on to pro­duce a se­ries of beau­ti­ful books in­tended as an an­ti­dote to the in­creas­ingly coarse rit­ual of in­dus­trial printing.

To­day, the strug­gle con­tin­ues. Word proces­sors and web browsers beckon us with de­fault set­tings and tem­plates that promise great re­sults with no effort.

But you only get out what you put in. Don’t ac­cept the de­faults. You can do better.