Aside from alignment
and grouping, elements
can be linked using rhythm: a regular or irregular repetition of common
Rhythm is the most subtle and
abstract of the 'associating' tools.
It helps to associate elements by
repeating a common stylistic feature or arrangement. This even works
when elements aren't grouped or aligned, but often works in conjunction
with these techniques.
Rhythm is a common technique in
graphic design. It can work whenever a style is repeated. Familiar
examples include bulleted lists and headings.
It's easiest to show how
rhythm/repetition works through examples.
Simple example of rhythm
This snippet from the US Republican
Party's homepage (no affiliation is implied), shows rhythm in effect.
The section headline style is
repeated, all the instances are left-aligned and separated with a
common horizontal divider. This creates a rhythm. Once you've decoded
even one or two examples, your brain creates a rule or pattern on the
fly You then use that rule to recognise and interpret subsequent
examples of the header.
The brain also applies rules in this
way when scanning a page.
You quickly notice that the bottom
Features are also clearly related. As well as being horizontally
aligned, rhythm is also noticeable in their regular size, regular
spacing and repeated styles of the images, headlines and copy
Example: Associating elements using
rhythm alone (no alignment or grouping)
In this example, the 6 main
navigation links aren't all grouped or contained spatially, or aligned
around any common axis. They are clearly associated as peers, which is
effected through rhythm.
The rhythm is created through a
number of stylistic features: font, visual layout of each item, and a
roughly circular arrangement.
Using rhythm allows for a spacious
and informal layout, using an elegant balance, without loss of clarity.
Example of lack of rhythm
This is the menu from Skinnycorp's (otherwise
It's a good example of missing
rhythm. The first-level menu items ought to be regular widths, to make
it clear that they are related.
The result is a menu that's dominated
by the dark grey negative space. It's difficult to focus on the
- Provide a text equivalent for
every non-text element (e.g., via "alt", "longdesc", or in element
content). This includes: images, graphical representations of text
(including symbols), image map regions, animations (e.g., animated
GIFs), applets and programmatic objects, ascii art, frames, scripts,
images used as list bullets, spacers, graphical buttons, sounds (played
with or without user interaction), stand-alone audio files, audio
tracks of video, and video. [Priority 1]