TypoTip: What’s a Page Layout?

Sometimes I ask myself: Does my customer really know what I am doing? Ok I also ask myself: what the hell is the craftsman doing, who is fixing my heating or my dishwasher? I don’t get it, I don’t understand it, I haven’t learnt what he is doing. But when he is done I am very happy that everything works properly again.

Ok, if my customer comes over and wants a quota e.g. about business cards, flyer, poster or a book, I write a quota about design or page layout. It is my job, to give your ideas a design.

Today I would like to talk about how to create a business card or a poster. Not the mayor design, but the most important steps. Steps that have to be followed with nearly all projects.
At first let’s have a closer look at the term “page layout”.

What is a Page Layout?

Guess many of you have heard about “Layout” or “Page Layout”, it is pretty common in the graphical field. In generall it is a plan, a design, a draft how your future printed project will look like. The design will visualize your wishes and ideas. You will present yourself to the public. Have a look at a certain business card. What feelings and ideas are hidden in it? Is it a playful card, a conservative, a kind of classical design, or more modern? Questions that will be answered by the page layout.

What does a Page Layout include?

You need to think of a lot of stuff for a proper layout, so here just some examples:


The format is determined by the purpose of your project. A business card in Germany is usually about 85 x 55 mm landscape or portrait. Sure, it is also nice to have a special format, bigger, smaller, square, or other shapes, but for the later ones you usually have to find a special printing shop. Usually the printing shop likes to print many different  business cards at the same time, so the standard format is quiet handy.

You have some options indeed, but a business card sized like a poster might be a bit awkward, not only for you but also for the recipient. Just think about the transportation :D ! You will be remembered I think!

Creating the type area

e. g. setting up all the margins.


One of my favorite parts. It is exciting and very time-consuming to find the right font. Just remember our example of busines cards: playful, modern, strict, conservativ … you need different fonts to express these feelings.

Sometimes it is very handy if a customer has a so called corporate font. A corporate font is the font, that will be used for all the printed stuff of a certain company. The corporate font of Helz-Design is Bauhaus, DRK uses Helvetica, one of my customers has everything done in Futura, and Commag, the magazine I am writing for, is set up in Myriad.

At this point I also have a closer look at headlines, because their size also depends on the size of the body font. I usually define fontstyles for all these purposes.


  • is there a corporate color?
  • if not – what colors do I think will meet the project of my customer?
  • which colors do match with the main color?
  • how to set up the colors for 4c printing?

How did I set up a poster?

At first we have a little chat, what the customer wants to be on the poster. In case of the recent project of the DRK: they knew: pictures and  a lot of text.

DRK Fröndenberg Plakat

Sometimes you need more pictures and less text, e. g. if you create a poster for an exhibiton.

But you have to send the texts to me. Some sentences, the basic parameters “beginning, ending, organisator, city etc.”, or maybe the texts are really massive or I have to write a text on my own.

You also have to send the pictures. All the pictures, you want to be in your project, Logos etc. In case of the DRK they send me the four pictures, you see at the right margin and the DRK-Logo.

When I have received the pix, I’ll take a closer look at them in photoshop and set them up for printing. Some need to be a bit more light or to be a bit more sharpened. Sometimes I need to erase some scratched from the pix.

Next step happens in InDesign. I will create a file in the format of the project.

In case of the DRK the format has been A4 210 x 297 mm.

We wanted to print half of the poster in red, and the red had to be at the edge of the poster, so I had to set up a “Beschnitt” a bleed. A bleed is a small addition to your format, usually around 2–3 mm around the document. It helps the printer to cut the ready printed poster (or whatever project it is) without white edges.

The DRK usually prints with a certain Pantone red, but we wanted to print in CMYK. So I had to figure out how to convert this Pantone red. Luckly the stylesheet of the DRK told me to use 100 % magenta plus 100 % yellow for their red.

Unfortunately I didn’t have to do a font hunt, I like that :) . Style sheet of the DRK made it quiet clear, that their corporate font is Helvetica. They also defined the sizes for headlines etc. I just adjusted some parts to modify the headline color a bit, to meet the wishes of the committee.

You have always keep in mind, that the project needs to be legible. A poster needs bigger font sizes than a business card.

Next step was to create a background in photoshop in white and red, and to place it into InDesign.

Setting up of the Logo, creating the desired QR-Code and placing it as well.


Placing and adjusting of the pictures.

And then the text.

It might not sound like a lot of work, but it can take hours, until a first draft is done the way to present it to the customer.

In the end the committee decided that they also wanted to have a hand on the poster with a finger pointing at the beholder. Now I had to do a little picture hunting and than cutting out the background which is usually a time consuming work.

Layouting a business card

Lets choose standard landscape 85 x 55 mm, I love landscape.




setting up the right format incl. bleed in InDesgin. If I had to create a background in photoshop I will do that, and then place it into InDesign. Sometines there is only one background color, or some stripes or dots which can be easily created in InDesign.

Choosing fonts, defining font styles. Writing the text, placing a logo, picture(s) or QR-Code, adjust everything and send it for correction to the customer.

All done and then?

Customer has seen everything, has corrected everything, is happy and yeah he also wants to get hold of the really printed product.

After I’ll got the imprimatur, the approval to print, I will create a printable pdf according to the demands of the printing shop. Some like to have crop marks, others don’t want crop marks etc. I’ll send the ready made pdf to the printing shop and guarantee that the files will be printed as we set up the layout and the design.

Do I need a layout to print?

Yes, certainly. It is the only way to make sure, that everything will be printed the way you want it to be.