Join Ina Saltz for an in-depth discussion in this video Exploring variations in type alignment, part of Foundations of Typography.
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The next step in arranging letters well is the alignment of type. There are five possible kinds of alignment, Flush left, Flush right, Justified, Centered, and Random, also known as asymmetrical. These are few more terms to add your type vocabulary. When lines of type are aligned on the left, we say it is flush left. Notice that the words are uneven or ragged on the right that is rag right. This is a common form of typesetting because we read from left to right and flush left type allows us to find our place on the next line more easily.
When lines of type are aligned on the right, we call that flush right and uneven on the left, rag left. Flush right is not good for lengthy reading because the eye will have a hard time finding the next line on the left on the left when the lines are uneven. When lines of type are aligned both on the left and the right, it's called justified type. Because all of the lines are the same length and the margins are even, this creates a quiet, balanced, formal look. Most books, magazines and newspapers are set with justified columns of type.
Justified lines are created by varying the word spacing. The most common problem that you need to watch out for with justified type is gappy word spacing. Sometimes you will see rivers of space in a passage of text. This is not good. It usually happens if the lines are too short, and there aren't enough places to add space. In some cases, this can be fixed by adjusting the tracking. There are two other kinds of alignment, centered and asymmetrical.
You might see centered alignment on an invitation, for example, but it should not be used for lengthy reading, for the same reason as flush right text, the eye has to find its place on the next line, and it is harder when the next line starts in a different place each time. One last type of alignment is random or asymmetrical. Random arrangements can be visually exciting, but again are not good for lengthy reading. Type can be set in curves, patterns or shapes for dramatic effect.
Here's a great example of a book cover that uses random alignment. This headline creates a sense of energy and drama. The subhead is flush left, rag right and the text in each balloon is centered. It's fun and inviting and makes me want to read this book. You can mix alignments. Let's look at a couple of good examples which demonstrate how mixed alignments can work well together. In this poster, we see flush left type at the top. The title, The CHERRY ORCHARD is centered on the image.
There is also a quote that is set in centered type. There is justified type under the logo PS 21 and the remainder of the type is all aligned flush left to the right of the logo. The mixing of alignments creates a dynamic tension and yet it looks organized. The two main columns at the left in this example are justified. The blue display text in the center is flush right. Text at the very bottom is flush left and the text in the far right is centered.
Everything is separate and balanced and every piece of text is completely legible. Also note the beautiful typographic color in the body copy. Those are the five types of alignment and some guidelines for when you should consider using them. Most of the time you will find that you will be setting your type for everyday reading, and that means flush left or justified settings. Selecting the proper alignment or mix of alignments will help your reader navigate and can add a dynamic quality to your layouts.
- What is typography?
- Differentiating type characteristics
- Using ornamental and decorative type
- Combining typefaces
- Using contrast and scale
- Kerning and kerning pairs
- Choosing the optimum line length
- Aligning and spacing characters, words, and paragraphs
- Understanding factors affecting legibility
- Working with three-dimensional type
- Putting type in motion