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I have a few questions about my page layout.

Keypoints
  • paper used is DIN A4 (21x29.7cm)
  • body font is Latin Modern 12pt
  • margin font is Latin Modern Sans Serif 10pt
  • running header is 12pt small caps and page numbers are 10pt (matching in size)
  • around 61 characters fit into one line
  • around 18 characters fit into the margin
Problems
  • Following Robert Bringhurst's advice, I used small caps for the running headers. To match font sizes, I used footnote-size for the page numbers at the bottom of the page. However, they now seem a little small and nondescript to me.

  • Should I move the page numbers into the header? I worry that there is too much white-space at the bottom then.

  • Should I use single-spacing or 1.5 spacing? With single-spacing, the pages look very crowded, although I have never printed a page and in general do not know much about typography.

  • Are the margins good, as in do they help with making the text comfortably readable? Is the ratio between inner and top margin okay?

  • The inner margins seem a little to big to me. But again, I don't know much about good typography.

Thank you very much in advance for any opinion or critique! Helpful critique and tips are very much appreciated!


Page layouts
  • One and a half-spaced:

enter image description here

  • Single-spaced:

enter image description here


Page margins
  • The ratio between inner and top margin is 1:1.

  • The ratio between inner and outer margin is 1:2.

  • The ratio between top and bottom margin is roughly 2:3.

  • page margins (recto page):

enter image description here


EDIT: Non-justified margin notes

enter image description here

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    "I have never printed a page and in general do not know much about typography" Well kuddos to you because this looks quite nice for someone who doesn't know much about type. What kind of binding will you be using?
    – curious
    Jun 15 at 12:44
  • @curious thank you! I just tried to apply what I read in books and on the internet. As for the binding: this document is going to be a bachelor thesis, thus around 50-70 pages. I think adhesive or hardcover binding will be used. I do not really have an idea yet because I don't know what is the norm.
    – user165354
    Jun 15 at 13:38
  • What's the type body size for the text in the margins?
    – curious
    Jun 15 at 13:45
  • @curious 10pt (also for running headers and page numbers)
    – user165354
    Jun 15 at 13:52
  • I would check with your school whether they have a prescribed format or guidelines for a bachelor’s thesis.
    – pbasdf
    Jun 16 at 7:36
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In general I think you are on the right track with this layout. I will comment on your doubts and add a few extra observations.

Page Numbers

In my opinion, the page numbers are not too small. It's a typical beginner's mistake to make big and bold page numbers. They are an important tool, but they shouldn't attract too much attention. They could perhaps be a tiny bit more visible. There is no rule that page numbers must be the same size as used elsewhere on the page. They can be a point larger or semi-bold perhaps. They could also be set in sans-serif. All valid choices.

The positioning of the page numbers is pretty classical and works fine. You also have other possibilities. Here are three of them shown with magenta squares:

If you do choose to move the page numbers up in the top of the page, you are right that the whitespace in the bottom will be too much. In that case you could consider moving the whole body text 1 or 2 lines down. maybe even add another line.

Leading / Line Height

You talk about leading in terms of "single-spaced" and "One and a half-spaced". You must be using LaTeX, Word or some other program which encourages this way of thinking. I would call it leading and think in points or sometimes millimeters. Absolute measurement instead of relative.

I think the leading should be somewhere in-between the two examples you show, but the main problem here is that you don't snap to a baseline grid. The headings, having relative leading, don't take up an equal number of lines of the body text and each paragraph of the body text have less space after than a whole line. This results in the lines constantly shifting.

It seems that your layout program regards 18 pt. as "one and a half-spaced" (it also seems to regard 14.4 pt. as "single-spaced", so I don't understand the logic behind this). Here I've drawn lines with 18 pt. distance in cyan and the margins in magenta:

(How you manage to make both pages end on the lower margin is a riddle to me. I guess the layout program somehow distributes the space to achieve this? Or it's just luck.)

In my opinion, the lines in a book must always snap to a baseline grid, so the lines on the left and right page are aligned. Otherwise it gives a messy overall appearance.

Using a baseline grid dictates some rules:

  • A heading and the space before and after it must take up an equal number of lines. (Although it doesn't necessarily have to touch a baseline.)

  • The space before or after a paragraph must be an equal number of lines. Or you can have no space and instead use a first line indent.

  • The margins must fit the baseline grid. In other words the column height must be an equal number of lines.

How to achieve this in practice is a bit too much to explain here.

This answer is related.

Margins

The margins look well-balanced to me. The inner margin isn't too wide in my opinion. When binding the book, you will loose some of the inner margin and it will seem smaller on the physical book. Perhaps about 5 mm or more. Partly because 1-2 mm are actually lost in the glue, but also because the paper bends and you don't see the inner part of the pages perpendicularly.

Read Wikipedia's article about canons of page construction, but be aware that these rules are often (if not always) broken in modern typography. It's just nice to know the history behind.

Margin Texts

The margin texts shouldn't have full justification, but be left-aligned or perhaps even aligned towards the spine (right-aligned on left pages and left-aligned on right pages). Otherwise the word spacing become too inconsistent.

It annoys my eye that the margin texts doesn't in any way align with the body text:

Ideally I would try to see if it's possible to use the same leading for the margin texts as for the body text, so all lines align. That would make the margin texts more airy than the body text. This can be OK in some cases, but if it looks too strange, at least follow some principle where for example the last line of the margin text aligns with the last line of the body text paragraph it belongs to. Also consider making the leading of the margin text 75% of that of the body text, so the lines at least aligns every 3rd/4th line.

Space Before and After Headings

The space around your headings is distributed roughly 4 to 3 (4 parts before, 3 parts after):

This is just enough to make sure the heading seems to belong to the following paragraph instead of the previous, but personally I would like the difference to be a little bigger and make something closer to 2 to 1 (2 parts before, 1 part after). So in other words the double amount of space before the heading as after. This is mostly a matter of preference.

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    I wanted to answer but... :) All of this and I think the side columns could use slightly smaller type to avoid gaps. Also note sure if these side columns are justified or aligned. I think I would go for aligned. Hard to say at this size.
    – curious
    Jun 16 at 1:27
  • Thank you very much for this detailed answer and for going into detail and addressing my doubts. If I move my page number to the bottom pink square, will I also have to extend the running headers into the margins? I am indeed using LaTeX which makes it not too easy to change the leading and the space before and after headings. But thank you for the detailed explanation and the link about the baseline grid, I will try to follow and see if I can make it work. As for the justification of the margin texts, please see my edit to the question. Aligning them towards the spine looks horrible to me...
    – user165354
    Jun 16 at 8:44
  • Well, I like the alignment towards the spine. But it's a matter of taste. You should go with your own intuition. Regarding extending the running header, I'm not sure. The page numbers are sometimes placed in a corner all by themselves with no alignment with other elements. Makes them stand out in a way.
    – Wolff
    Jun 16 at 12:41
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    @user165354 I think it looks bad because the rag isn't shaped properly in a lot of places. Not sure how much you can do with the software you're using but having more characters per line would help the rag look cleaner
    – curious
    Jun 16 at 13:00
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Sounds like you know plenty about typography already.

In all honesty this design looks quite good, page grid is ok, page numbers are ok, maybe try some in-between value for the leading (line spacing).

The only bad thing about it is in the sidenotes (margins): justification works better for long lines of text (your page content), but justification gives poor results in narrow text boxes. The gaps between words are too large when justification is applied to short lines of text.

I would definitely left-align the sidenotes and remove hyphenation there.

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  • Thank you very much! Would you please do me a favor and look at my edit to the question? I provided a screenshot with non-justified margin notes. I think they look horrible and I think I would prefer making the margin notes just a little bit wider (0.5cm maybe) and hope the spacing between the words looks better than. What do you suggest?
    – user165354
    Jun 16 at 8:37
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    man i love the non-justified sidebars. also try to introduce a baseline grid and just stick the first line of sidebar notes to this baseline grid
    – Lucian
    Jun 16 at 9:12

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