|This article does not cite any references or sources. (June 2007)|
Page layout is the part of graphic design that deals in the arrangement and style treatment of elements (content) on a page. Whereas pagination alone can be a simple process (and thus today is mostly automated), page layout is a higher-level concept involving intelligence, sentience, and creativity. The term page makeup in its broadest sense is a synonym of page layout; in a narrower sense from before modern software, when all pagination (even the simplest) was done manually, page makeup could refer to any pagination, whether simple pagination done in the typesetting department and requiring no artistic skill (such as for a phone book interior) or higher-skill layout done by a graphic designer. Today the simple type is done by software, not people, so it is just called pagination.
History and development
Beginning from early illuminated pages in hand-copied books of the Middle Ages and proceeding down to intricate modern magazine and catalog layouts, proper page design has long been a consideration in printed material. With print media, elements usually consist of type (text), images (pictures), and occasionally place-holder graphics for elements that are not printed with ink such as die/laser cutting, foil stamping or blind embossing.
Since the advent of personal computing, page layout skills have expanded to electronic media as well as print media. The electronic page is better known as a graphical user interface (GUI) when interactive elements are included. Page layout for interactive media overlaps with (and is often called) interface design. This usually includes interactive elements and multimedia in addition to text and still images. Interactivity takes page layout skills from planning attraction and eye flow to the next level of planning user experience in collaboration with software engineers and creative directors.
A page layout may be designed in a rough paper and pencil sketch before producing, or produced during the design process to the final form. Both design and production may be achieved using hand tools or page layout software. Producing a web page may require knowledge of markup languages along with WYSIWYG editors to compensate for incompatibility between platforms. Special considerations must be made for how the layout of an HTML page will change (reflow) when resized by the end-user. Cascading style sheets are often required to keep the page layout consistent between web browsers.
Grids versus templates
- A grid is a set of guidelines, able to be seen in the design process and invisible to the end-user/audience, for aligning and repeating elements on a page. A page layout may or may not stay within those guidelines, depending on how much repetition or variety the design style in the series calls for. Grids are meant to be flexible. Using a grid to lay out elements on the page may require just as much or more graphic design skill than that which was required to design the grid.
- In contrast, a template is more rigid. A template involves repeated elements mostly visible to the end-user/audience. Using a template to lay out elements usually involves less graphic design skill than that which was required to design the template. Templates are used for minimal modification of background elements and frequent modification (or swapping) of foreground content.
Most desktop publishing software allows for grids in the form of a page filled with coloured lines or dots placed at a specified equal horizontal and vertical distance apart. Automatic margins and booklet spine (gutter) lines may be specified for global use throughout the document. Multiple additional horizontal and vertical lines may be placed at any point on the page. Invisible to the end-user/audience shapes may be placed on the page as guidelines for page layout and print processing as well. Software templates are achieved by duplicating a template data file, or with master page features in a multiple-page document. Master pages may include both grid elements and template elements such as header and footer elements, automatic page numbering, and automatic table of contents features. ..
Static versus dynamic layouts
Static layouts allow for more control over the aesthetics, and thorough optimization of space around and overlapping irregular-shaped content than dynamic layouts. In web design, this is sometimes referred to as a fixed width layout; but the entire layout may be scalable in size while still maintaining the original proportions, static placement, and style of the content. All raster image formats are static layouts in effect; but a static layout may include searchable text by separating the text from the graphics.
In contrast, electronic pages allow for dynamic layouts with swapping content, personalization of styles, text scaling, image scaling, or reflowable content with variable page sizes often referred to as fluid or liquid layout. Dynamic layouts are more likely to separate presentation from content, which comes with its own advantages.
Static layout design may involve more graphic design and visual art skills, whereas dynamic layout design may involve more interactive design and content management skills to thoroughly anticipate content variation.
Motion graphics don't fit neatly into either category, but may involve layout skills or careful consideration of how the motion may affect the layout. In either case, the element of motion makes it a dynamic layout, but one that warrants motion graphic design more than static graphic design or interactive design.
Electronic pages may utilized both static and dynamic layout features by dividing the pages or by combining the effects. For example, a section of the page such as a web banner may contain static or motion graphics contained within a swapping content area. Dynamic or live text may be wrapped around irregular shaped images by using invisible spacers to push the text away from the edges. Some computer algorithms can detect the edges of an object that contain transparency and flow content around contours.
Front-end versus back-end
With modern media content retrieval and output technology, there is much overlap between visual communications (front-end) and information technology (back-end). Large print publications (thick books, especially instructional in nature) and electronic pages (web pages) require meta data for automatic indexing, automatic reformatting, database publishing, dynamic page display and end-user interactivity. Much of the meta data (meta tags) must be hand coded or specified during the page layout process. This divides the task of page layout between artists and engineers, or tasks the artist/engineer to do both.
More complex projects may require two separate designs: page layout design as the front-end, and function coding as the back-end. In this case, the front-end may be designed using an alternative page layout technology such as image editing software or on paper with hand rendering methods. Most image editing software includes features for converting a page layout for use in a "What You See Is What You Get" (WYSIWYG) editor or features to export graphics for desktop publishing software. WYSIWYG editors and desktop publishing software allow front-end design prior to back end-coding in most cases. Interface design and database publishing may involve more technical knowledge or collaboration with information technology engineering in the front-end.