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In scientific publications, one often finds data plots. They are usually shown individually or in groups (two or three side by side, or in multi-row panels).

Imagine one has full flexibility to design the plots for a specific publication to any horizontal/vertical size.

What are good principles to decide on the following issues?

  1. How to decide the horizontal and vertical size of plots to be shown on their own, or in two- or three-element panels, with respect to the size of the page and/or type area?

  2. In cases with more than one plot on the same row, how much space goes to the plots, and how much to empty space between them?

  3. Data plots aren't left-right symmetric. Instead, one usually has numbers and labels on the left side of the plot, but not on the right. Thinking of the horizontal alignment of the plot on the page, what should be aligned with the center of the page: the center or the plot frame (not including numbers and axis name), or the center of the whole image (including numbers and axis frame)? (or something else?)

Overall, you can summarize this in the following question: what are good design principles about sizing and alignment of plots, or groups of plots, within a text?

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These are all issues which are sorted while designing a piece. Just as each chart/plot will be different, there is no "one formula" which covers all layouts using data charts/plots.

In most instances, the size of graphs/charts is a direct correlation to their importance as they relate to the message of the piece. More important data charts will work better if they are more prominent, meaning often larger. And size will directly effect the number of charts which can be displayed in a layout. If the desire is for larger, more clearly read charts, then fewer charts per page will be necessary. Or minimally, the space between charts will need to be decreased.

Number of charts, spacing, alignment are all dependent upon the "mood" or impression one wishes to convey. More space is generally beneficial but, like everything, that's not set in stone.

There are myriad possibilities and decisions need to not only be specific to the charts being used but also to each design or brand as well as the desired message.

In short, is appears as though you are asking for a specific set of rules to follow where there really are no rules. This is where design becomes far more "art" than "science". Size, spacing, alignment, et. al. of charts/plots are all up to the designer's aesthetic acumen.

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