A colleague recently showed me her portfolio, which I admired appropriately, but something didn’t seem quite right – and then I got it – there was an inconsistency of edge space, the space around the outside of each piece of work. This lack of awareness within this area of design can be disturbing, as its purpose is to draw the eye inwards and navigate it where it needs to go. This breathing space, created by the margins (or borders) surrounding the page, provide a sense of both protection and presentation within its frame.
Let’s consider an example of cordon bleu served on a large white plate. Typically served in small portions, the food is aesthetically placed to unconsciously please the eye and draw attention to itself. The presentation revels in the juxtaposition of colour, shape and flavour, culminating in gourmet gratification.
Alternatively, if the meal was just slumped in the middle of your plate, unceremoniously swimming in gravy, would you be encouraged to eat it? Potatoes don’t appreciate balancing precariously close to the rim, rubbing shoulders with a steak that looms menacingly over vegetables cowering in a corner somewhere.
Design should not suffer the same consequences, and this was brought home when some leaflets I had designed were termed ‘crowded’. In spite of containing a lot of information, this was no excuse for clutter. I had adhered to my principles of allowing plenty of margin around the outside, but had neglected what was in the middle.
The answer was to adjust the font to a thinner, cleaner version, only slightly reducing the size of the words, adjust the leading to rearrange line positioning and enlarge the margins while preventing the words becoming crammed up to the edge. The overall effect was clean and crisp, creating more space while not overpowering the design.
If you would like to know more about how margins can affect your work, go ask Alice!