Vocab Lesson 4: Rules

Vocab Lesson 4: Rules No, we're not talking about what you were trying to escape as a kid or the seemingly-arbitrary rules your professors make you follow ... we're talking about lines. Yes, lines are more than just lines. Learn more after the jump.

Lines in graphic design are called rules (and less often keylines). They can be used in multiple ways, as you can see in the image below ... they be short, long, fat, thin, solid, dotted, wavy, in color, etc. They can be used to separate material, to add emphasis or define an area, or simply for decoration. 

Rule thickness is defined in points, just like type size. The term hairline refers to a very thin rule, but it can be an arbitrary term since there is no agreed-upon measurement. Generally it describes a rule measuring anywhere from 0.125pt to 0.25pt, but many printers caution against using anything less than 0.25pt as it will be impossible to reproduce on press. QuarkXPress has a hairline setting that is supposedly 0.125pt, so it's best to avoid using it or any predefined setting like that and instead specify an actual point size.


So you now know what a rule, keyline and hairline is. Well, the terminology doesn't end there...

When a rule is a combination of a thick and thin line, it is called a scotch rule. When it is used as the border of a box, it is called a frame. When you see vertical lines placed between columns of text, those can be referred to as downrules. And in the paragraph settings in your layout program, you will likely see a menu item called paragraph rules ... those are horizontal rules that you can position above, below or through your lines of type; they are part of the type rather than a separate line element, and therefore they move with your type as you add or delete within the text block.


Despite being called rules by designers, in InDesign and QuarkXPress, as well as most desktop publishing programs, you generally create rules by using line tools and stroke settings. 

Rules can be useful in many ways: they can help define the margins of a page, they can separate sidebars from the main text, they can help the readers' eye as downrules by clearly separating the columns of type, especially useful when the space between columns is thin. They can add emphasis to headlines or subheads, or they can help break up long blocks of text.


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Want more? Check out our previous Vocab Lessons:

*Editor's Note: These pages come from Cookie magazine, New York, and a mini-mag from Money magazine.

"Vocab Lesson" is a recurring feature on our SPD Student Blog. Tune in every Wednesday for a new word of the week. And if you come across a term you can't quite figure out, email it to us at spdstudentoutreach@gmail.com and we'll define it in a future post.
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