NHS Designs

closeness; the state of being near

Design Principles

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Page 3: Business Card

Take a look at this typical business card layout, below. How many separate elements do you see in that small space? That is, how many times does your eye stop to look at something?

example 16a

Does your eye stop five times? Of course - there are five separate items on this little card.

Where do you begin reading? In the middle, probably, because that phrase is boldest.

What do you read next-left to right (because it's in English)?

What happens when you get to the bottom-right corner? Where does your eye go?

Do you wander around making sure you didn't miss any corners?

And what if I confuse the issue even further:

example 16b

Now that there are two bold phrases, where do you begin?

Do you start in the upper left? Do you start in the center?

After you read those two items, where do you go? Perhaps you bounce back and forth between the wards in bold, nervously trying to also catch the words in the corners.

Do you know when you're finished?

Does your friend follow the same pattern you did?


When several items are in close proximity to each other, they become one visual unit rather than several separate units. As in life, the proximity, or the closeness, implies a relationship.

By grouping similar elements into one unit, several things instantly happen: The page becomes more organized. You understand where to begin reading the message, and you know when you are finished. And
the "white space" (the space around the letters) automatically becomes more organized as well.

A problem with the previous card is that not one of the items on the card seems related to any other item. It is not clear where you should begin reading the card, and it is not clear when you are finished.

If I do one thing to this business card - if I group related
elements together, into closer proximity - see what happens:

example 17

Now is there any question about where you begin to read the card?

Where do your eyes go next?

Do you know when you're finished?


With that one simple concept, this card is now organized both intellectually and visually.

And thus it communicates more clearly.


Let's compare all three side-by-side:

example 16-17



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Source: The Non-Designer's Design Book by Robin Williams

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