One of my jobs (and sometime bete-noire) doing design work and other creative projects is getting to grips with the rhythm of proportion. Shoud be simple right? Not so much. Proportions vary (obviously) depending on what you are working on and as I find myself designing all sorts of different kinds of things in my job, means that you are constantly shifting the proverbial, proportional goalposts.

In order to achieve the desired outcome of proportional simplicity requires either a) mathematical devices (I do on occasion) or b) a finely attuned eye (my preference). By looking, looking and looking again you get the picture. Without a visual input there is no chance of just guessing what works, it needs to be seen.

For design work, when figuring out the layout of a brochure or poster for example, I am searching for a rhythm, a punctuated space or a proportion that, when placed correctly, sings back at you YES! THIS IS THE ONE. The rhythm of a page or wall or whatever, despite me using a musical reference, is purely visual, it allows your eyes to glide across the beat of a visually pleasing scene. If something clunks you feel it like a bum note or an out of tune voice.

For me to get to this point of golden proportion takes time, patience and self-confidence. And when you can’t quite get it right, it’s time to walk away, have a break and come back to it the next day. The walking away technique never fails to work no matter how you might feel at the time. And here’s the truth, despite what some people may expect of a designer, creating proportionally pleasing, new and interesting work takes time, enforcing a period of reflection that cannot be rushed, sometimes making this job feel harder than perhaps it should, but when it works; it really works.

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