Graphic Design 101: Proximity

An important part of your company’s brand is the image of professionalism you want to convey, and good looking, brand-consistent stationary is a vital part of that. When it comes to image, what is it that separates the professionals from the wannabe’s? There are some basic principles to good looking design that Robin Williams (not the comedian) discusses in her excellent book, The Non-Designer’s Design Book.

There are simple things you can do that can affect the impact your publications have in an exponential fashion, things that reinforce your brand in peoples’ minds and that will help keep you front and centre. There are four basic rules to consider: Proximity, Alignment, Repetition, and Contrast. I’d like to discuss them in turn: let’s start today with Proximity.

Ugly Business Card

No attention paid to proximity of elements or alignment.

Proximity implies relationship. Items that relate to one another need to be grouped in the same general area; they then become a single visual unit instead of a bunch of little unconnected ones. Blocks of type, images on a page and information relate to one another both stylistically and logically – you strengthen a piece’s visual impact by how you relate the elements with one another and you strengthen its logical impact by how you group the information.

The upper left card is an example of a business card with no sense of proximity. The card looks weak, disorganized and the information the card contains is scattered all over the place; it’s mentally and visually jarring – and amateurish. If your card looks sloppy, people will probably think the same thing about how you run your business. Yikes! Hardly the card a professional would want to hand to a prospective client. There is a better way…

Better Business Card

The same card, with information logically grouped and aligned. Sooo much nicer!

Here’s the same card with a few easy adjustments thrown in. Note the alignment (more on that in the next instalment) to the right border of the card. It’s clean, organized and looks like someone put some thought into the design; it lends visual strength to the piece. But notice especially that  the items relating to one another are grouped together; they are in the correct proximity to one another. In particular, there’s one spot on the card where the contact information resides. The city, street and phone number (and email, Facebook address and web URL if applicable) should all occupy the same general area. it’s easier on the brain and therefore easier to remember. The general order of information on the card is sensible as well: Business name, cardholder name, contact information.

Don’t worry that the type isn’t centred. The white space makes it visually attractive and easier to read to boot.

Your business stationary is a vital part of the image you present to your customers. By observing a few simple rules you can greatly affect the impression you make when you present your cards and letterheads to the people you need to impress the most: your customers.

In the next instalment, we’ll take a look at alignment.