Why Word Wrap Graphic-Text Interaction brings Value to Book Layout
During book layout, among the people doing the work or those approving it, the value of graphics that interact with the content’s text via intricate word wrapping frequently gets overlooked. This is especially true of people who have an old-fashioned approach to layout and are not accustomed to, or do not approve of, graphic-text interactions.
But what, exactly, is the value that graphic-text interaction has?
Understanding Graphic-Text Interaction via Word Wrap During Book Layout
As with most reasons why we do this or that while doing layout, the whats and whys of graphic-text interactions during book layout relates back to how we, as readers, perceive things and input data. Eye tracking studies and the like have shown that simple things like page placement and spacing can dramatically affect how we take notice of certain content components, and how we associate them as a part of the whole.
If you place content — be it graphics and/or text – too close together with no or little padding, you detrimentally affect readability. The two or more content components are perceived together, muddying their perceived meaning and importance. Place these elements too far apart or with too much or incorrect padding types around them, however, and you get the opposite effect: there is no or little perceived connection between them.
I have one client in particular who, when I do book layout for them, absolutely refuses to allow any tight word wrapping around graphics. For instance, let’s say they have a circular infographic they want to be inserted into a newsletter. They will not allow any layout that wraps the accompanying text around that circle’s edge. Instead, they demand the text either wrap around the circular graphic as though it were a square box or that the image is segregated from all text with no word wrap. They just won’t consider any reason or circumstance to counter this policy that is rooted in the personal preferences of the person responsible for content approval rather than any functional considerations.
Not only is this approach aesthetically old-fashioned and a remnant from a time when tight word wrapping was difficult, even when doing layout with digital software, but it also distances the two content components and hinders engagement because they are not interacting effectively or efficiently.
Getting the Most Engagement out of Content Interaction via Word Wrap
To illustrate how weak content interaction can ruin a reader’s engagement with the material, and how it affects basic aesthetics, let’s look at the two approved word wrap methods the previously mentioned client will allow for their book layout projects. (Keep in mind the images were all created quickly as examples, so there’s no tweaking or refinement one would expect in an actual project.)
The first image is the one of the two options this client permits that I prefer. Although it still creates a degree of disconnect between the graphic and text components, it is aesthetically the most pleasing. It places the graphic on its own (in this instance it is atop the text, although it can also be placed in the middle of after the text). This graphic placement has no word wrap at all — it forces the graphic into isolation from the text. Still, the reader’s eye still moves directly over the graphic as it moves on to read the text, so it is still very likely the reader will take note of the graphic and find leads within the text itself that will connect the two.
The second method this client approves of is one I try to avoid at all costs. Despite their opinion this looks fine and their dislike of tight word wrapping, I think many of you will agree this technique looks sloppy. Despite the graphic being a circle (in this case — it could be an illustration of a figure, for instance, you want to wrap tightly the text around), the text wraps around its extreme dimensions as though it were a box. This method means the most likely point of interaction and engagement between the graphic and text is at the circle’s relative extremes where the text is closest to the image. However, the large amount of awkward white space at each corner of this “box” is far more obvious, increasing the chance of dissociation between the image and the accompanying text.
And, really … that squared off white space around a curving object just looks bad. It is a hole in your page that wastes space.
The third image is an example of how I prefer text interact with images. The text shapes itself along the circle’s contours, leaving uniform padding between graphic and text. The way the curved edge moves into and then out of the rightmost column also forces the eye to engage with the image as one reads because the image is pushing into the reading space. You simply cannot read the text without your eye noticing the image. This image reflects a proper way of getting graphic-text interaction to result in engagement during book layout.
I know it is been a while since I’ve updated this blog (I’ve been extremely busy with my day job, freelancing, and publishing), but I hope to get back to a regular posting schedule in 2016. I hope this will include more tips and comments on book layout you can enjoy.