Mason Weis

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CRAP — Part 3 Alignment

Design Principle: Alignment by Melanie Taube

Design Principle: Alignment by Melanie Taube

CRAP part 3, here we go! Over the last few weeks, we’ve covered half of the “CRAP” principles. If you’re just jumping in now, I’d recommend getting yourself acquainted with my first two posts

Alright, so today we’re talking about the “a” in CRAP, alignment. In a way, alignment bridges the other principles together. As designers, we try to align elements in a way that creates a visual connection to viewers through effective organization. This is especially important when one considers any design that might feature text. Let’s take a look.

Pulp Fiction -- Quentin Tarantino

Pulp Fiction -- Quentin Tarantino

Movie posters are a great example of why alignment is important to design. Let’s consider Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction… 

The first thing you’ll notice is how the title itself is center aligned. This places an incredible amount of emphasis on that specific element. Which, of course, is the point. As a bit of an aside, notice how the title also utilizes effective contrast, making it even more noticeable, but also sticks to the repetition in color scheme, making it different, yet cohesive. As I said earlier, alignment bridges the other principles together. It adds order and structure to everything, but doesn’t necessarily overrule the other principles themselves. Notice how the eye is more immediately drawn to the title rather than “(Winner - best picture - 1994 - Cannes Film Festival).” While our eyes normally read right-to-left and top-to-bottom (at least in our English-speaking world), the other principles in this case lend themselves to the title more than the “additional information.”

The information continues to be ordered throughout the rest of the poster in terms of most to least important. The title is the most important element. Directly after that, Quentin Tarantino’s name is dropped. Within seconds, you know the title and the fact that Tarantino made the movie (which if you know anything about Tarantino films means you’ll also have some sort of expectation for what the movie will be like).

Moving down, the eye will notice the cast list. The information here is very purposefully ordered from most to least important, based on the actor’s role in the film. As the list goes down, the actors listed start going from “stars” to “supporting actors.” The exception here, is Bruce Willis. Either because of a contractual agreement or because it would draw viewers, Willis is listed last on the poster and slightly away from the rest of the cast list. Notice how Placing him further away separates his name and brings slightly more attention to it even though he’s at the very bottom. That is the power of alignment.

At the very bottom, least important of all is the additional billing. I don’t know of anyone who really reads this section on any movie poster, but it’s there. Why don’t people read it though? Well the answer is probably two-fold. First is contrast. The text is so small that people more than likely see it as less than important. However, second would be… you guessed it! Alignment! The information is at the very bottom of the page. By the time people view the poster, they probably have all the information they need to decide whether or not they want to see the film. If you’re trying to sell a film on information located in small print at the bottom of your poster, you’re doing it wrong. 

As I’ve been saying about the other principles, alignment is very important to learn and master. Even if you can make aesthetically pleasing elements, they’ll mean nothing to viewers if you don’t find the correct way to order them and present them. The human brain craves organization (why do you think we have mnemonics like CRAP in the first place?) I’ll leave you all with a few more movie posters before I go. Think about what the designers are trying to convey with their use of alignment.

The Dark Knight -- Christopher Nolan

The Dark Knight -- Christopher Nolan

Swiss Army Man -- Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan

Swiss Army Man -- Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan

Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens -- J.J. Abrams

Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens -- J.J. Abrams

Next week, we’ll be finishing up the CRAP series with the final principle. Proximity.

Until next time!

Mason Weis