182 Best Practices for Graphic Designers: Grids and Page Layouts
Optical composition is another way that a layout may
be developed without the use of a grid. This method is
similar to painting or collage in its reliance on intuitive
placement of objects to form relationships within the
content. Contrasts and connections are made based
only on the judgment of the designer in response to the
way the format appears either as a stand-alone item or
how it relates to other areas of the page, package, or
book. While there are clearly no rules about how optical
organization is executed, it generally starts by loosely
connecting items and ideas and roughly positioning
them. Once a basic outline has been decided, content
can be broken down, or moved aroundrefining these
relationships until they reach a place where the designer
is happy with their visual impact and their ability to
meet the objectives of the piece. Much the same way a
painter might start with a loose sketch before beginning
to paint, these rough placements can quickly be done
and undone while working from the whole to the part.
Since there may not be a system for codifying and
classifying content, working from the whole to the part
helps to ensure that everything fits and that other layout
considerations such as rhythm and flow and hierarchy
are met. The result of this type of design can be very
invitingits purpose being to create a layout where
the visual interaction of elements is the most important
thingand can establish in the viewer an appreciation
for the strong ties between content around which the
layout is built.
OPPOSITE: This postcard series
was created to build awareness of a
women’s fashion brand. It crops and
repeats sections of the photography
of the models against backdrops of
international cities to create a look
both immediate and in progress.
The backs integrate the text and
imagery with the actual form of the
postcard. Building these layouts
optically ensures that unique images
have layouts built around them, and
that they can feel consistent and
part of a series even though the only
consistently positioned elements are
the stamp area and the address lines
(which are impacted uniquely by the
other content on each back).
FIRM Umbrella Design
CLIENT Chemistry
Breaking the Rules: Optical Composition 183

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