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Determining page and text block proportions

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Nick Phillips's picture
Joined: 28 Nov 2017 - 11:26am
Determining page and text block proportions

I am reading through Robert Bringhurst's Elements of Typographic Style (4th edition) once again and especially Chapter 8: "Shaping the Page." My publication is a multi-column periodical; page size is standard 8.5x11" or close to it. I'm trying to use his chromatic scale (page 146) to determine the proportions of the text block. Most of the graphic design forums I appeal to for help just give me a blank look, so I turn to typographers.

My question: If you have a given page size (let's say 8.5x11," which corresponds to the tall half-octagon or a fourth on the chromatic scale), how do you determine the text block? Just mix and match it with the other proportions (major 6th, diminished 5th, major 3rd, etc.)?

Steve Tiano's picture
Joined: 17 Aug 2007 - 1:39pm

Bringhurst and Hochuli/Kinross were my Bibles as I learned the craft of book design. Rich Hendel's book, too. As I got more experienced, I began to see that there was an art to it as well. All of which is to say I came to mix and match things that looked attractive to my eye, taking into account what types the material called for and at what size and leading. You have to trust your instincts applied to what you've learned, without doing "cute" design that distracts the reader.

Jean-lou Désiré's picture
Joined: 27 Feb 2012 - 3:26am

Hi Nick,
Not actually answering your question but, I recently created a grid calculator which is available online at http://layoutgridcalculator.com
please have a look at the 'golden canon' page, this will set a grid according to Tsichichold golden canon.

Jens Troeger's picture
Joined: 24 Feb 2014 - 3:46am

Steve, I agree: Richard Hendel’s books (“On Book Design” and “Aspects of Contemporary Book Design”) are great reads in addition the Bringhurst’s bible. I also enjoyed Jan Tschichold’s essays.

Nick, I’m by far no expert in book design but I enjoy it very much. What helped me most was trial-and-error, which is probably what Steve is also saying. Jump into a design, print it, and look at it. Tweak it a dozen times, print them, spread them all side-by-side, and feel out which works best for you. I found that it’s not just the dimensions of the page and text block, but the interplay of typeface, letter- and line spacing (defining the “color” of the text block), text block dimensions and placement wrt. page dimensions, and so forth.

Most of all… have fun :)