Proximity is a rather straightforward principle to understand: when designing a page, we’ll want to group any related items together on the page. This makes the items into one visual unit, reducing clutter in the document. Grouping related items together also helps organize information on our page. To help get an idea of how proximity could help out a document, take a look at the following examples of a business card - they contain the same information, but are laid out very differently.
This example has information in every corner, and in the center as well - but is the information arranged in a logical matter? Is it easy to process the information when it's spread out on the page like this, as opposed to clustered together in a way that makes sense?
In this example, information is clustered together based on the type of information - phone numbers are grouped together, as well as web contact information. With the information arranged like this, it's easier for a reader to process what they're reading.
Ensuring related items are in close proximity to each other makes sense – we want to make sure any pieces of information that are connected to each other are near each other. Also, putting items into clustered groups on a page makes it easier for viewers to process what they're reading, and makes our publications easier to navigate. Items that aren’t grouped together properly might cause some confusion with our readers. Take a look at the following layouts to see an example of where keeping proximity in mind can have helped this publication.
The information in this example isn’t organized very well – we can’t quite make sense of all the text included at first glance, as it’s put together in an almost stream-of-consciousness type of way. Also, the location information is placed in the middle of the event listings – which makes the third event listing somewhat of a surprise to our viewers, as typically all events should be grouped together on our page because they’re related.
This version of the layout organizes all the information in a way that’s much easier for our readers to absorb. Events are grouped together, and the location information is set off on its own in order to help draw attention to it.
In short, the principle of proximity can help us keep our information organized by grouping related information in our layout together in conceptual chunks.
How can we use proximity in a publication?
Using proximity in a publication is pretty straightforward as well – we want to make sure our related items are placed close to each other, and connected images and text are united in some way. This will help ensure our message is clearly communicated to our readers. A couple of ways we can ensure this happens, by keeping proximity in mind, are as follows:
Keep related elements close together – such as the parts of a street address, or the title of a movie and its listing times.
Don’t mix unrelated types of information together – such as a location or phone number in the middle of a list of event times.
Incorporate white space into the design to help separate unrelated items – this will also help emphasize elements that are related to each other.
It seems simple enough – keep related items together to keep a layout organized.
Proximity: Summing it up
In brief, proximity focuses on keeping our related items together to help clearly communicate our message and to avoid confusing our readers. This will help unite sections of information, and make it easier for our readers to absorb the information we’re trying to share.
For further information and examples of proximity in design, check out the following links: