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C.R.A.P. Design: Alignment

We’re chugging right along in our quest to define just what the acronym C.R.A.P. really means for design work. Before we get into it, check out part one and part two if you haven’t already.

Sean Anderson
Sean Anderson

We’re chugging right along in our quest to define just what the acronym C.R.A.P. really means for design work. Before we get into it, check out part one and part two if you haven’t already.

We’re not going to contrast with the other two parts of this series; we’re going to repeat what we’ve done and talk more about the four qualities of good design. That way we’re aligned with the wishes of the design gods and can reach a closer proximity to our goals and design nirvana.

I’m impressed that I was able to fit each one into that short paragraph. Go me. 💪

In the last couple posts, contrast was shown to draw the eye to specific places by using differing colors, sizes, and shapes. Repetition was used to help lead a viewer through a piece of design work. We’re now halfway through C.R.A.P., or:

  • Contrast
  • Repetition
  • Alignment
  • Proximity

Let’s talk about how important that “A” is.

Principle #3: Alignment

Alignment in design refers to “lining the top, bottom, sides, or middle of text or graphic elements on a page.”

At face value, alignment doesn’t appear to be as important as contrast, repetition, or proximity. As long as the viewer’s eye is being led in the right direction and is dazzled by cool imagery, then elements in the work not being perfectly lined up shouldn’t make or break the work.


Well, perhaps not.

Consider books for a second. If you crack open a new book that you’ve been excited to read and two paragraphs into it you spot a clearly misspelled word, how does it feel to see that?

Granted, I’m obsessed with proper spelling, but it’s still a little off-putting to see a misspelled word in a book that’s passed in front of so many different eyes before it was published. How could someone along the way not have spotted such an obvious mistake?

It’s pretty...unprofessional, right? The bookmakers may have been careless in their job.

In the same way, misaligned elements in a work of design is one of the quickest and easiest ways to differentiate between well-made work and something that’s been slapped together without care.

It’s one of those qualities that isn’t noticeable until something is wrong. If you can see that elements of a work are misaligned, it’s like you’re being yelled at to notice them. If all is in correct alignment, then nothing is encroaching on your attention.

Alignment examples

Here are some examples of design that uses alignment in appropriate ways. Take care to notice the attention to detail that’s being taken in the designs. Elements aren’t strewn about the place or encroaching on the space of other elements. Everything is aligned as it should be.

An image showing multicolored squares out of and in alignment.
A screenshot of the old Dandy Cat Design site with text and images in good alignment.

Computers are wonderful tools. They automate so much of what we do. They have the capability to perform precise and exact measurements.

These days, when it very nearly takes actual effort to misalign design work, it’s inexcusable to allow elements in the work to stray away from their proper place.

Photoshop has guides and snapping to ensure that everything is exactly where they should be. It’s also not the only program out there that’ll help you with alignment. Features that help with alignment are built into most every piece of design software these days.

Worse comes to worse, you probably have a tool sitting in your desk drawer that’s very useful with helping align elements in design work. It’s so unassuming you may not have thought of it once while reading this post on aligning things.

It’s the trusty ruler!

See, the simplest things in the world can still be the most helpful.

We’re going to finish up this series next time. Until then, keep things even, cats.

On Pinterest? Be sure to pin these images.


Sean Anderson

Lover of productivity tips, Apple devices, and vegan ice cream. Mostly, I'm busy petting cats 🐱 and dogs 🐶

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