Q: I like splashy layouts on two-page spreads, but every time I suggest one to my designer, her mind goes right to the gutter. She gives me this weirdly knowing smile and then reminds me that it’s dark and scary there. What’s with you artsy people? Don’t you have any boundaries? Can’t we talk normally about design spreads?

In design spreads, gutter awareness is important. This is an example of where a letter has gotten lost, leading to a very different meaning.

In this magazine layout about Mexico, the letter “m” fell into the gutter and changed the meaning of the headline from a tantalizing come-hither to unfortunate dramatic irony.

A: Gentle reader, your designer is showing you that she knows all about boundaries. A gutter is the space where two facing pages meet in a layout. In books and magazines with many pages, and particularly those that utilize “perfect binding,” that gutter can be a hazardous chasm that words and images fall into, causing your meaning to become misaligned, mangled or lost. Smart designers place important stuff a safe distance away. The width of the gutter safety zone varies depending on the binding method of the project. When in doubt, take a step back.

When designing for a magazine or book spread, or any surface that’s not a flat piece of paper — be it a car wrap, escalator wall, or envelope — here are other tips to ensure your placement is perfect:

  • DO note where a paper folds. Place photos of people to avoid creasing anyone’s eyes or face. Ouch.
  • DO note where staples will be. Place photos so that staples don’t appear to pierce any foreheads, crotches or other sensitive body parts. Double ouch.
  • DO note where mailing seals or labels will be. Place important text and images where they won’t be obscured.

Need help with your designs? Call Kim Landry at 484-829-0021 or email [email protected].

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