Keep Your Eye on CARP

March 2006
by Pete Masterson

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Contrast, Alignment,
Repetition, and Proximity: The acronym derived from these words encapsulates
the basic principles behind all design. If you do not use these principles
carefully, however, the letters may be reordered into an expletive describing
the particular design you have created.

Contrast means avoiding too much similarity. Design elements
should reflect differences in structure, size, and weight (e.g., a headline
should be larger and darker). Avoid a bland uniformity in which everything
looks almost the same. When trying to make elements contrast, be bold.
Otherwise, the viewer will assume you tried to make the elements match but

Contrast often supplies the most
distinctive visual attraction on a page.

Alignment means avoiding random placement of elements on a
page. Elements need to follow a plan. Every element on the page needs a visual
connection with every other element. No element should be placed in a way that
breaks up the planned alignments.

Alignment creates a clean,
sophisticated look and is often used to guide the reader through a book. Thanks
to alignment, the reader’s eye learns where to seek the next element.

Repetition involves where elements are placed throughout a
document. Y

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