Thursday, May 27, 2010

Design Balance: Fitting one character's positive shapes into another's negative space

Japanese magazines have some really good layout in them.

These clusters of Dream Pets could easily have been cluttered disorganized messes, but instead they ad up to a pleasing and easy to understand design. The whole composition and arrangement invites your eyes to navigate easily accross the page.

The layout artist arranged all the characters very carefully to make them:

1) Read Clearly (functional)
2) To form flowing patterns within the larger scheme (To be hierarchical and aesthetically pleasing)

Here, the toys are arranged in a flowing curve that helps frame the curved Type.
Augie Doggie's head (below) is neatly framed by the wide spread crotch of the character above.
This is using one characters negative space to frame another character's positive space.

The penguin below is neatly framed by the negative spaces of the characters around him.
Here, there is a group of small characters forming a circular shape, next to a larger character.

If you study the whole-page spreads- Squint your eyes and look at them - you can see all kinds of clever patterns, forms and flowing shapes that make the whole picture easy to read and aesthetically pleasing. This is good design.
These margins are nice too. They help separate a different concept from the rest of the page.

Bad design is chaos and clutter, when all the individual shapes bash into each other or create awkward looking negative shapes between them.

Bad designers think of each small individual shape first and don't look at the big picture.

These concepts apply not only to page layout but to staging characters in a cartoon, or designing a beautiful building.

Design is functional and aesthetic.

Easy to see, organized and hierarchical in structure.
Here is a sample page I laid out for the Spumco book where I tried to apply some of these ideas.

The middle section of the 2 page spread shows Ren and Stimpy reacting to the unfolding horror story of the Children's Crusade surrounding them.

The panels of Ren and Stimpy are arranged on a flowing curve that relates to the flowing curves in Nick Cross' pan layouts of the children below.

Say no to chaos, I say.

I am working on a couple of projects that require this kind of clear and happy layout and I wrote this post to help the designers understand what I like.

Kristen McCabe is very good at this
So is George Clark:See how one character's silhouette frames the other characters'?