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I know this is all subjective, but I'm hoping there are general principles here that will mean this is a valid question.

Take a look at the layout below. In the past (before I tried to learn about this stuff properly) I would have made the text line up with the left hand side of box 1. However, I think it looks more balanced where the text is now. Is this the correct way to balance these elements? (or a correct way rather).

example of balance and alignment

(A follow up to my question: How can a design be balanced and yet have a focal point?)

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A good practical tip for testing balance: stand back, and flip everything horizontal (or use a mirror if it's printed / hand made). It's easy to not notice imbalance in something you've been working on a while. With this, you'll get a momentary first impression, seeing it without recognising it, and if there is imbalance it'll jump right out at you. Don't do this too often in one piece or you'll start recognosing the flipped version. –  user568458 Sep 3 '12 at 11:51
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Another tip: look at it out of focus (either unfocusing your eyes, viewing from a distance, zooming out, or applying blur). There should be some rough coherent balanced shape or structure - like the rough V triangle in Scott's example below. –  user568458 Sep 3 '12 at 11:51
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The concept of balance is less subjective than you think, unless you consider all perceptions subjective! :)

Here's how to develop an eye for it: browse around your local area and/or Flickr, Google images, or any other source of photographs of the real world and look at photographs of objects that are clearly balanced (stable) and unbalanced (ready to fall over or tilt unless supported).

Our perception of balance is grooved in by our experience with physical objects, starting with those blocks you probably played with when you were 2 years old. We see balance based on our experience of the physical world. Picture a set of scales with a 3 kg weight on one pan and a feather on the other. You perceive that as unbalanced because in the real world it would be.

It is this experience that translates into design, where gravity plays no actual physical role. In your example, if those were metal objects held together by a frame, the center of gravity would be to one side; it would fall over.

Once you've got this under your belt, experiment with some shapes cut out of paper. Play with their arrangement and notice which feel balanced and which don't.

A perfectly balanced layout isn't always what you want. Balance is at rest, in equilibrium, static. More often than not, you will want to add some tension or energy to a layout. That is achieved by carefully unbalancing the elements to achieve the effect you want.

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Nice stuff, cheers. Imagining it as a series of real objects really seems to work, I can actually feel a sense of gravity now. –  james6848 Sep 6 '12 at 20:21
    
It's all in that shift of viewpoint, isn't it? Glad to help. :) –  Alan Gilbertson Sep 6 '12 at 20:26
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To balance the design further I would pull the smaller text to the left so the distance from the left edge of box 1 to text is the same distance as the right edge of box 2 to text.

I would also make the distance from the box bottoms to the text top equal to the box heights.

design

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It does look good. My thoughts were that only the bigger text needed to be moved in towards the centre because it was weightier. Looks like I still haven't quite 'got it'. :/ –  james6848 Sep 3 '12 at 14:52
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