Layout: the design of the printed page

Reviewed by Samantha Flynn

1. Style

The historical formation of modern design began just before 1910 and has continued up to modern day. After the large and violent period of war and revolution in 1920 the crucial points in the period had been completed. In 1920 the Bauhaus had only been “alive” for a year. Artists, architects, and designers were able to take the ideas and creations from the time period and combine them to create what is now known as modern style.

Style and modern design are two things that are quite difficult to define. The dictionary defines style as “a particular distinctive mode or form of construction or execution in any work or art.” Accumulated experience, personal taste, and creative force of the designer are three things that can be used to create a successful layout. Modern design is hard to define because it relies on a visual body of work and is ever changing with the advancements in technology. Modern style is made up of different expressions, colors, and shapes.

There were nine essential movements that contributed to the form of modern style: Art Nouveau, Cubism, Futurism, Dada, Surrealism, Constructivism, Art Deco, De Stijl, and The Bauhaus.

  • Art Nouveau: Prelude, could be considered the “false start of the modern movement.” This movement had indirect influence on graphic Design
  • Cubism: There has been no other event that has had such a lasting effect on the development of visual communication. Cubism influenced graphic design through collage, assemblage, letterforms, and untraditional approach to representation and form.
  • Futurism: There was a critical bridge from cubism to futurism that was built by Marcel Duchamp who introduced machine mechanics as a design element.
  • Dada: Was inspired by Marcel Duchamp, influenced graphic designers to use humor and shock value to gain attention.
  • Surrealism: The shift from Dada into artists creating illustrative art based on the unconscious. This created a new approach to graphic imagery, drawn illustrations, and photographs.
  • Constructivism: An early voice of the Russian revolution, created a new sense of order in design.
  • Art Deco: Created a trend of streamlined slickness in printed materials.
  • De Stijl and Bauhaus: From 1919-1930 the Bauhaus had reached to magazine covers, advertisements, editorial layouts, books, and brochures.

2. Form

“No study of form in graphic design can be complete without an analysis of the space it occupies.” (p.84)

A designer first thinks about a layout in his mind and then transfers it to a thumbnail sketch. After the thumbnail is created the layout is reviewed again by the designer.

Sometimes the most successful layouts are those that seem to break all the principles and rules of form and order.


“The design process requires continuous analysis and study of the elements that go together to make the complete layout.” (p.128)

4. Response

The significant exchange: Occurs when the reader picks up a copy and turns their attention to the page. A designer who designs a layout for the printed page is in a line of communication that puts them in direct contact with the reader/viewer.

Perception: Wertheimer’s principles of perceptual organization, established vision as a creative experience rather than just simply seeing.

Illusion: How absolute is sight? Illusions can question this by making our eyes see something that isn’t really there. The visual paradox: “An awareness of illusion and perceptual ambiguity reminds us that things are indeed not what they seem.” (p.142)