Centering Type

Center alignment is widely used in magazine design for crossheads and in book design for title pages. When chosen consciously centering can be extremely effective; when chosen as a "default" or fall-back option, it can make layouts appear stodgy or generic. At its best, it is formal and classical; at its worst, it is static and conventional, andif you are centering whole paragraphsit is less readable. The potential pitfall of centered type is that the even amount of white space on either side of the heading can create a symmetry that may be at odds with asymmetrical nature of the ragged right text. Centering is also commonly associated with birth announcements, wedding invitations, and…gravestones.

Guidelines for Centering Type

  • When centering display type over left-aligned body text, you may need to tweak the alignment to compensate for the type looking off center if the display type is followed by a line of ragged type that does not fill the full measure.

    Figure 8.4. Center alignment used for poetry.

    Figure 8.5. A static Center alignment (example A) and a more dynamic Left alignment (example B).

    Figure 8.6. Optically centering a headline. In example A, the headline is mathematically centered. In example B, the headline has been optically centeredby adding a small amount of right indentover the first line of type.

  • Avoid using an italic headline over roman type because the slant of the italic can make the headline appear off-center.

  • Centered lines that begin or end with punctuation may look off-center and require optical centering.

  • Avoid centering paragraphs with too many lines, especially on a wide measure, because it is harder to find the beginning of the next line.

  • Break lines into phrases that make sense.