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Why Designers Need To Accept Alignment Anomalies

I sat down at the dining table and something pretty minuscule caught my eye. Here is a picture of a Pringles (chips) container.

Notice something off? Here's the issue in isolation.

It's evident that this text group seems a little off. However, technically it isn't. It follows a perfect mathematical alignment system. Allow me to illustrate.

All modern-day graphic design softwares allow users to align text groups in relation to other graphical elements using features such as auto-snap (Smart Guides). While these features allow users to snap things into place along an anchor point, with speed and precision, it also becomes a slight point of reliance. With this reliance comes dependence and designers may often fail to fix certain visual anomalies.

In this case, the text box can be considered as one visual group and the exclamation mark is considered as a separate visual group simply because of the issues in proximity and negative space that is formed by using the letter "K" to end the first text line.

While the "N" and the "S" can be anchored together by a vertical line, the negative space of the letter "K" fails to create a similar imaginary vertical line on the right side of the text box. This creates a stronger left side to the image as a viewer can comprehend it as a complete shape (Gestalt's Law Of Closure) whereas on the right, this shape is missing and the inclusion of the exclamation mark does not help in aiding this situation.

So, there are two problems to highlight here:

1) The position and size of the exclamation mark in comparison to the largely rectangular text group falls short in creating a separate sub-visual group in order to balance the right side of the larger visual group. It must be moved closer and the size must be increased to match the height of the letter "K". Possibly even a little more than that since it is a curve and must extend a little beyond the letter height.

2) The entire group must be moved a little to the right and break away from the mathematical system of alignment simply because the right side creates a weakness with the negative space of "K". This in turn might help the visual group look more centered than what it is now.

It was quite a revelation when I observed this out of the blue. I ran back into my room to get a marker and test if my theory was right. It seems to be.

The larger takeaway here is that as a graphic designer, it becomes imperative to trust your visual sensibility and not be a victim to the software's logic because ultimately design is for the people with all their "human" flaws. Therefore, sometimes, hard mathematically derived grids may seem like the obvious choice but they must always be reassessed by the human eye and be humanized.


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