Page layout question? (two grids in one publication)

Subject: Page layout question? (two grids in one publication)
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 25 May 2001 12:34:10 -0400

David Chinell's manual layout uses <<... a six-inch column. Of this, only
the rightmost four inches is used for the text column. We use the leftmost
two inches for sidebar tips and illustrations. In effect, we have a two-inch
column and a four-inch column on each page. One of our writers developed a
new design where any page can use either two three-inch columns or the
traditional two-inch, four-inch pair... I find this somehow disconcerting,
although it does seem to
accommodate a wide variety of layouts and combinations of text and

I'm from the functional school of design, which means that I consider
consistency important, and feel that changes that depart from this
consistency should serve a distinct purpose--ideally, increasing usability
for readers. I don't see any reason why the hybrid design (with two
different text grids) would pass this test or what it adds to the design,
but I don't know how it's being used and thus can't really comment. Neither
do I think it's necessarily a disastrous choice. Different elements of a
text often receive different layout treatments (e.g., the sidebar text in
magazines such as PC Magazine and Scientific American differs from the body
text), so the technique can be effective if skillfully and consistently
used. In your case, it might well be feasible to use one design for the main
text, and use the other design only secondarily and in limited doses, where
it serves a specific goal--just as the sidebars I mentioned present useful
elaborations that don't form part of the main text.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is
by accident. That's where we come in; we're computer professionals. We cause
accidents."-- Nathaniel Borenstein


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