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Use Frames, Boxes, Borders with a Purpose

Desktop Publishing Rules for Frames Use


Use Frames and Boxes With a Purpose

Clockwise from Upper Left: Graphic frame enhances an ad, Graphic border frames a page, dashes simulate a coupon, color box sets off sidebar, color boxes with graphics unify and differentiate related pieces.

Jacci Howard Bear

Ever felt "all boxed in?" Boxes, borders, or frames are useful design and organizational devices. The problem is that they are just too easy to create.

You have probably seen a flier, brochure, or report that has box after box after box — even boxes within boxes. A frame loses its ability to emphasize blocks of text if every other block on the page is boxed. Frames around text also interrupt the flow of text, and the flow of the reader's eye. Too many boxes of text make the document harder to read. In many cases, simple frames are best.

Explore the great variety of options shown in this article. Use frames and borders to add interest to your documents and to enhance the readability of your ads, brochures, books, and annual reports. Just don't overdo it.

Pages in this Document:

  1. Purpose (this page)
  2. Visual Interest
  3. Creativity & Bottom Line

Use frames with purpose and in moderation

Frames form a barrier that the reader must cross. Too many boxes may distract your readers until they can no longer give your copy the attention it requires. Know the purpose of every frame, box, or border that you use.

  • Use frames to group related information or graphics. Unify individual graphics in varying styles by placing them all in one frame or placing each item in separate but matching frames.


  • Use frames to set apart information. For example, set apart the fine print in an ad with a box near the bottom.


  • Use frames to emphasize. In a manual, draw attention to key points or hot tips with a frame. It indicates that this information is important.


There are other ways to group, set apart, and emphasize information including through font choices, color, position on the page, and alignment. Consider using those organizational methods in place of some or all frames, boxes, and borders to avoid that boxed in look.

"Right and wrong do not exist in graphic design. There is only effective and non-effective communication."
— Peter Bilak - Illegibility


Next: Add interest with frames, boxes, and borders.

The Desktop Document > Images Phase > Image Placement


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