Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Antiphonal Geometry

"In fleshing out his new canon of web design Mark pointed out that “[c]reating layouts on the web has to be different because there are no edges. There are no ‘pages’. We’ve made them up.”

But this gives me pause. Because there are always edges. Do you scroll online? Of course you do. That’s edges for you. Don’t get me wrong. I understand what Mark’s getting at – that when we design for the web, we can’t rely on where those edges are, like a print designer can, because we don’t know what device the user has or what size their browser window will be."

"In his book The Elements of Typographic Style, Robert Bringhurst touches on how proportions in print might be considered to work:

The page is a piece of paper. It is also a visible and tangible proportion, silently sounding the thoroughbass of the book. On it lies the textblock, which must answer to the page. The two together – page and textblock – produce an antiphonal geometry.

So what does Bringhurst mean by antiphonal geometry, a phrase, as I’ve already mentioned, that marries the musical (antiphony) to the spatial (geometry)? By stating that the textblock “must answer to the page”, the implication is that the relationship between the proportions of the page and the shape of the textblock printed on it embodies a spatial call-and-response, antiphonal geometry, that can be appealing or not."

"Screens may come in many different sizes but, at least for now, they share some geometrical characteristics independent of size. Not only are they all rectangles, but those rectangles, those frames, conform to only a very few sets of proportions or aspect ratios.

  • The first of them, 2:3, shared by the iPhone up to version 4 and older iPod touches, but also devices like the Nook HD+.

  • Then there’s 3:4 (or 4:3 in landscape orientation) which covers devices like BlackBerrys, incarnations of the Kindle and, of course, the iPad and iPad mini. 4:3 is also the aspect ratio of older CRT monitors, and it’s the old PAL and NTSC TV standard.

  • At 3:5 there are many more smartphones, like the BlackBerry Z10, the Nexus 4 and the Nokia Lumia.

  • At 5:8 we’re definitely in tablet and small laptop territory, with Nexus 7 and 10 tablets, the Kindle Fire HD and MacBooks Air and Pro.

  • And finally with 9:16 we find the latest widescreen devices: iPhone 5; the Galaxy S III and Note II; many smartphones; while in landscape orientation are Microsoft’s Surface; iMacs and the Thunderbolt display; plus the Galaxy Tab and Kindle Fire. This is also the HDTV standard aspect ratio."
"Back in September last year, Paul Robert Lloyd argued very eloquently in his A List Apart article for an approach to web design based in empathy for the medium, what it is and how it works. Such an approach might yield a true web aesthetic, developing organically from the web’s unique characteristics. I hope that my ideas about antiphonal geometry partake of that spirit."

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