How to Give Special Information the Impact It Needs

Boxes are wonderful elements in graphic design – especially when you are working on a copy-heavy piece such as a magalog. They draw the reader's eye to important information, and they help delineate information for quicker reading. Boxes can be static or dynamic elements – or a mixture of both.

Best of all, boxes no longer have to be "boxy." With the advanced capabilities in today's layout programs, you can box text and graphics in circles, ovals, octagons, triangles, irregular shapes, or even between rule lines. Adding rule lines above and below text is a popular way to box pull quotes. ("Pull quotes" repeat parts of the main copy that you want emphasized in larger and bolder text.)

Curvy Boxes

Whatever shapes you choose, your boxes needn't be plain-Jane. You can outline them or put reversed type in a solid or tinted color. You can even create your own customized borders by repeating a clip-art pattern … or by using attractive clip-art itself as a box. (But don't get too fancy when you're boxing copy for direct marketing!)

Beautiful Lines

Skinny rule lines are now a thing of the past – gone with the old typewriter days. Now you can create interesting rules using multiple lines of varying widths. You can also substitute interesting borders for rule lines. You might try dashed, dotted, and wavy lines. Or use type symbols, such as dingbats or bullets.

Special Effects

If you really want to turn on the box appeal, you can even apply special effects to them. Most page-layout programs let you create rounded, beveled, and inverse corners on the borders. You can also pull the box into Photoshop (or another image-editing program) and feather the border for a soft, dreamy look. Or you can apply filters to the box for effects like burned edges, stained-glass, embossing, textures, and a myriad of others.

Balance Boxes for Greatest Appeal

When you look at a photograph, you can determine if the subject is stationary or in motion … because your perception of the photo tells you whether it's static or dynamic. Boxes, too, can be static or dynamic.

Squares, rectangles, ellipses, and circles are static elements, because they don't point the reader's eyes in any particular direction. They also have a formal appearance, which makes the overall look of the design more formal. An example of a static box is a sidebar.

Triangles, polygons, amoebas, and irregular shapes are dynamic. They direct the reader's eyes. They're also less formal and more exciting to look at than static boxes. An example of a dynamic shape is a starburst that is used to announce a FREE Bonus gift.

Your goal, when you use boxes in your design, is to have a balance between static and dynamic shapes.

Moderation Is the Key

Using too many boxes not only takes up valuable real estate on the page, it also makes the page feel cluttered and boxy. Even worse, when everything is highlighted in boxes, nothing really stands out.

Generally speaking, don't put more than one box on a page. If you need to box two items, position them in separate columns. It's also a good idea to use two different types and shapes when two boxes are sharing the same page.

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The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: November 17, 2005

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