Justifying your type justification

Right alignment? Left alignment? Full justification? There is always be a debate on which justification (or alignment of text) is best for your design piece. This article will explore the advantages and disadvantages of each of the most popular justification styles: right alignment, left alignment, center alignment, and full justification.

Left alignment
The most commonly used text alignment style used in design, and in the world generally, is Left alignment.

Found in most books, magazines or other “literature”, our eyes are naturally accustomed to reading left-aligned text, which makes it more aesthetically appealing. This means it is usually easier for beginning designers to incorporate this style of justification in their design pieces.

Notice how the left justification leaves the “ragged right edge” which creates a far more friendly feel and provides for easy legibility.

LEFT ALIGNMENT SAMPLE:
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc venenatis felis at risus. Vestibulum arcu dui, ultrices vel, volutpat nec, scelerisque id, sapien. Morbi convallis lobortis risus. Pellentesque eu diam. Proin ullamcorper suscipit est. In augue nibh, lacinia ac, venenatis id, viverra sed, magna. Nulla ipsum lacus, porttitor a, condimentum at, ornare eu, dolor. Maecenas posuere arcu at sapien. Pellentesque ultrices pharetra diam. Cras non nunc.

Although many designers find left alignment “too traditional” or “boring”, it will usually work extremely well in your design piece. However, as Jacci Howard Bear from About.com Desktop Publishing segment says, “What works for one design might be totally inappropriate for another layout.” Hence the following paragraphs. Keep reading…

Right alignment
A frequently used justification for new designers just “coming out of their shell” is right alignment. While this justification can be fun, original, and work well for alignment with other elements in your piece, it can also create a problem for the reader.

Right-aligned text is frequently hard to read because the “ragged edge” is used at the beginning of each line.  This means the reader’s eye has to find where it should start each time it continues to the next line of text. This can create fatigue for the reader and reduce retention.

Notice the “ragged edge” on the left hand side below when you right justify your text.

RIGHT ALIGNMENT SAMPLE
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc venenatis felis at risus. Vestibulum arcu dui, ultrices vel, volutpat nec, scelerisque id, sapien. Morbi convallis lobortis risus. Pellentesque eu diam. Proin ullamcorper suscipit est. In augue nibh, lacinia ac, venenatis id, viverra sed, magna. Nulla ipsum lacus, porttitor a, condimentum at, ornare eu, dolor. Maecenas posuere arcu at sapien. Pellentesque ultrices pharetra diam. Cras non nunc.

Center Alignment
One of the biggest follies of a beginning designer is the over usage of center text alignment.  While no style of justification should be completely banned or avoided, center alignment should be used more sparingly than any other.  Similar to right alignment, it is difficult for readers to find their starting position and, unless your entire design is center-aligned, it is frequently difficult to place it properly on the page.

So what situations call for center alignment? The most appropriate use for center alignment are more formal pieces. Wedding invitations, formal designs, and similar pieces.  Center alignment creates a more formal and refined feel so don’t use it if you are going for a more fun, edgy, or exciting piece. Take a look at the center-aligned text below.

CENTER ALIGNMENT SAMPLE:
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc venenatis felis at risus. Vestibulum arcu dui, ultrices vel, volutpat nec, scelerisque id, sapien. Morbi convallis lobortis risus. Pellentesque eu diam. Proin ullamcorper suscipit est. In augue nibh, lacinia ac, venenatis id, viverra sed, magna. Nulla ipsum lacus, porttitor a, condimentum at, ornare eu, dolor. Maecenas posuere arcu at sapien. Pellentesque ultrices pharetra diam. Cras non nunc.

Full Justification
A good substitute for center alignment is Fully-justified text. This means your text has a straight edge on both the right and left hand sides. While this style of alignment can be very effective, it is important to consider the width of your design piece.  Many times, it is not wise to fully justify your text across the entire width of the piece. This makes for long lines of text and creates eye fatigue.

Choose boundaries, fill them with text, align the text with other elements on the page and incorporate good principles of white space. This will create a nice clean feel and allow for simple and effective alignment.

FULL JUSTIFICATION
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc venenatis felis at risus. Vestibulum arcu dui, ultrices vel, volutpat nec, scelerisque id, sapien. Morbi convallis lobortis risus. Pellentesque eu diam. Proin ullamcorper suscipit est. In augue nibh, lacinia ac, venenatis id, viverra sed, magna. Nulla ipsum lacus, porttitor a, condimentum at, ornare eu, dolor. Maecenas posuere arcu at sapien. Pellentesque ultrices pharetra diam. Cras non nunc.

Conclusion
Over all, when making your decision on text alignment in any creative piece, remember the wise words of designer Peter Bilak: “Right and wrong do not exist in graphic design. There is only effective and non-effective communication.” Choose the text alignment that best communicates your idea and the mood of the piece.

How do you justify your text justification?  Which style do you prefer and why? Leave a comment on this post and share your ideas.

Sources:
http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/typelayout/a/justifyleft.htm
http://desktoppub.about.com/library/nosearch/bl-justiftyleft.htm
http://desktoppub.about.com/cs/typelayout/a/centeredtext.htm
http://justcreativedesign.com/2008/08/04/graphic-design-tips/
http://www.leafdigital.com/class/lessons/graphicdesign1/7.html

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