Margins Proportions

  • “A moldura afasta as imagens da linguagem comum falada no concílio das artes do passado. A moldura é substituída pela margem”

André Malraux

  • “A well-proportioned margin can enhance the pleasure of reading enormously”

Josef Müller-Brockmann

  • “A grid is the geometric division of a space into precisely measured columns, spaces and margins.”

Alan Swann


Perfect typography depends on perfect harmony between all of its elements. We must learn, and teach, what this means. Harmony is determined by relationships or proportions. Proportions are hidden everywhere: in the capaciousness of the margins, in the reciprocal relationships to each other of all four margins on the page of a book, in the relationship between leading of the type area and dimensions of the margins. The secret of a harmonious book page is not necessarily hidden in a relationship between the four margins expressible in simple numbers. Harmony between page size and type area is achieved when both have the same proportions. If efforts are successful to combine page format and type area into an indissoluble unit, then the margin proportions become functions of page format and overall construction and thus are inseparable from either. Margin proportions do not dominate the page of a book. (Tschichold, 1991 : 59)

Margins and their proportions, their relationship to each other in size, can have a marked influence on the impression created by a page of print. If they are too small, the reader feels the page is overfull, and he also unknowing reacts adversely to the fact that this fingers obscure the text and pictures when he is holding the book or brochure. If the margins are too large, it is difficult to avoid a sense of extravagance and the feeling that an exiguous text has been made to go a long way. Conversely, a well-balanced and proportioned relationship between the margins on sides, head and tail can produce an agreeable and restful impression. A margin of sufficient size is also a technical necessity. ( Müller-Brockmann, 2007 : 40)

Margins affect the way we perceive content by providing open spaces around texts and imagens. Wider margins can emphasize a picture or a field of text as an object, calling our attention to it. Narrower margins can make the content seem larger than life, bursting at its own seams. Margins provide a protective frame around the contents of a publication. (Lupton, 2008 : 101)

The frames are everywhere. A picture frame sets off a work of art from its surroundings, bringing attention to the work and lifting it apart from its setting. Modern designers often seek to eliminate frames. A minimalist interior avoids molding around doors or woodwork where walls meet the floor, exposing edge-to-edge relationships. The full-bleed photography of a sleek magazine layout eliminates the protective, formal zone of the white margin, allowing the image to explode off the page and into reality. Frames create the conditions for understanding an image or object. The philosopher Jacques Derrida defined framing as a structure that is both present and absent. The frame is subservient to the content it surrounds, disappearing as we focus on the image or object on view, and yet the frame shapes our understanding of the content. (Lupton, 2008 : 104)

Strong contrasts between white and black, in the form of type or rules, emphasize the white areas and greatly assist the total effect. (Tschichold, 1998 : 72)


Tschichold, Jan. (1991) The Form of the Book – London: Lund Humphries Pubishers.
Müller-Brockmann. (2007) Josef. Grid Systems in Graphic Design – Zürich: Niggli.
Lupton, Ellen. (2008). Graphic Design: the new basics – New York : Princepton Architectural Press.
Tschichold, Jan. (1998) The New Typography: a handbook for modern designers – Berkeley: University of California Press.

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