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Components of an Informal Page Layout

Use Principles and Elements of Casual, Relaxed Design

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An informal page layout is typically used for unofficial communications, fun or casual subjects or for communications that aim to be friendly and informative without being stuffy. While it might be easy to say that for whatever makes a formal layout, do the opposite for an informal layout. That's not necessarily the case. Informal can be simply friendly or it can be exciting, cutting edge, and non-traditional. Newsletters aimed at children and their parents (such as an elementary school newsletter) would not necessarily be the same kind of informal style used on posters advertising a poetry slam.

Informal is often equated with casual, relaxed, and everyday. Remembering that there are no hard and fast rules, the following guidelines will help you compose a page that fits the idea of informal.

Alignment

alignment
Left edge alignment is a common text alignment.
Centered text or images can be used on fun posters. Books with less than serious topics can certainly be set with justified text alignment. However, left-aligned/ragged right text is a little less orderly and perhaps a touch more casual in appearance.

Intentionally knocking elements out of alignment can also give a more dynamic feel to a piece or create tension.

"[Left-aligned text is] Often considered more informal, friendlier than justified text."

Balance

asymmetrical balance
With asymmetrical balance there is no mirror image layout.
In part, because it is less orderly, asymmetrical balance and some forms of radial balance (especially spirals and curves) can be seen as less formal, less traditional, and more casual than perfectly symmetrical pages.
"Asymmetrical layouts are generally more dynamic and by intentionally ignoring balance the designer can create tension, express movement, or convey a mood such as anger, excitement, joy, or casual amusement."

White Space

Margins are just one place where you can find white space (or not).
White space is good. Most layouts can benefit for more white space. However, using less or using it in creative ways and combined with other elements such as alignment and balance can help to set a more casual, informal tone. Using less white space can also add a sense of urgency, as if there isn't time to pause for a breath.

Narrower margins not only allow the designer to get more text and images on the page, it also conveys the idea of being mass produced. That's not necessarily a bad thing if not overdone. More generous margins are typically found in more formal layouts.

"If you want a more down-to-earth, ordinary folks appeal, bring it [amount of white space] down a notch or two. If you want to look cheap, mass-produced, or amateurish then fill the page to overflowing."

Grids and Columns

Rule of Thirds Illustrated
The rule of thirds helps to bring order to the chaos, informally.
The underlying grid of a layout can help keep an informal layout from becoming too chaotic or out-of-control. In fact, layouts that incorporate blank columns, intentional breaks in alignment, and numerous text and visual elements benefit greatly from an underlying grid to hold everything together. Informal doesn't have to mean out of control.

The rule of thirds provides a focal point without having the main elements right smack in the center of the page. It's a grid, of sorts, but not an inflexible one.

"Although not a hard and fast rule, in general ... a three-column (or other odd number) layout is more dynamic and less formal."

Type

Decorative Type Examples
Decorative fonts are often fun, playful, and casual.
Basic serif and sans serif fonts certainly have their place in informal layouts. But there is often also room for more playful, decorative, or exotic typefaces. It is generally best to limit their use to titles, headlines, drop caps, and other small bits of text.

You can also have fun with specialty or historical fonts. Use dripping blood fonts for Halloween projects. Try Western slab serif fonts to create a WANTED poster or give a Wild West feel to a piece.

"Neat or slightly messy casual scripts and handwriting fonts lend an informal but personal touch to cards, letters, and other documents."

Elements of Design

Curves and natural shapes help give this layout a casual feel.
Within the elements of graphic design are certain lines, shapes, and colors that tend to have a more casual feel. Certain elements convey a sense of movement or playfulness better than elements that are perceived as stiff, formal, or official. Among these are uneven or curving lines, triangles and circles, bright colors and non-typical color combinations. Unusual shapes, newsprint, and neon colors are definitely not formal but they can also convey varying levels of informality depending on the other components of the layout.

Straight lines can become more informal through size and placement. For example, in these patterns created with lines some patterns are less orderly, more dynamic, and a little chaotic depending on the arrangement of the lines.

Odd numbers create informal layouts: 3 columns. 3 photos.

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