Alignment provides one of the simplest and most direct means for conveying direction and creating unity in a composition. Overlapping creates a continuous mass of shape. On the other hand, alignment implies a direct link from one independent object to another independent object. For example, the text on this page runs in a tight sequence of letters and words on an imaginary horizontal path. This text also happens to be aligned on the left edge (“flush left”).
■ Night Stream‘s black dots float along as if in a diagonal migratory sort of flight. ■ All of the 5 Generaciones wine label elements align along a center axis, as do the black elements. Please notice that each system of color has it’s own rhythm. Alignment bonds both rhythms. ■ What Makes Communities Stick? uses alignment and hierarchy to create a meandering but coherent path. ■ We’re Back! uses flush left text alignment to connect the body text to the salmon and then to the headline. You’ll notice here as well that each color has its own rhythm and that alignment unifies one color system with another.
Alignments require a certain degree of tension or closeness from one object to the next and an imaginary path, otherwise the connections tend to weaken. Alignments assert control:
Descriptions of alignment/control shown above: ■ Stagecoach poster, the floating, quoted text appears tethered to the move title on a left axis which also controls the actors’ images and client’s identity. The “tethered” elements assert a dominantly vertical direction. ■ Magritte’s Grotto, an egg yoke shares a centering axis with the red shape beneath it, acting as a tether and helping to offset the more random elements of the image. The relationship of yoke to red shape asserts a subordinate direction. ■ Dakota is built on a central axis that engages the text, middle ground pattern, and background vignette of the circled star. All content but the larger silhouetted airplane shape are controlled by this visual thread. Although the composition is dominantly horizontal, the central/vertical axis asserts the composition’s only subordinate direction. ■ Marineland of Rolling Hills #1 features a pattern of white triangles (and dolphins) that are aligned on diagonal, horizontal and vertical axes. There are two dominant directions at play here: triangular and horizontal.