Balancing Act
by Denise Gormish (Mar 24, 2005)

Balance is a necessary part of life. Without balance we would never learn to walk or ride a bicycle. Gymnasts must balance on a balance beam. If they don’t they will fall to one side or the other. Similarly, our scrapbook pages need balance. We don’t want our pages falling one way or the other. Just as a balanced gymnast is beautiful to watch, a balanced layout is pleasing to the eye.

Balance on a scrapbook page can be achieved with either a symmetrical or asymmetrical design. Let’s take a look at both.

Symmetrical. Symmetrical means there is a division by a longitudinal plane breaking the composition into two similar halves. Each of the halves corresponds to one another in relation to size, shape, and position of the parts. Imagine cutting a tomato in half. Before cutting you have one item. When you cut it in half along its longitudinal plane, you now have two similar halves. Those two halves also correspond to one another in size and shape.

In scrapbooks, a dividing line or plane can divide a layout (or a portion of a layout) in half. Then, the elements of the layout will correspond to each other on opposite sides of the dividing line. A symmetrical design creates the same weight on both sides of the dividing line. The result is a formal, organized and orderly design.

Here are some examples of symmetrical design:

a layout that consists of a center dividing line and two symmetrical columns. In a layout, columns can be used either to divide a layout in half or can be used within a portion of a layout to create two equal sides. Multiple columns can be employed as well. In “Soar,” there are three horizontal columns within the overall framework of the layout. Columns can also be achieved with a series of photographs or a simple “photo strip.”

Mirror – a layout that consists of symmetrical columns but additionally uses the same elements on both sides. The mirror can be a true mirror where the elements are placed in the same position on both pages. The mirror can also be an image that is rotated. In “Yosemite Views” a vertical dividing line, the natural break in two pages, and a horizontal dividing line on each page balances the layout. Not only is it balanced, but the placement of the text and images on the second page is a mirror turned 180 degrees.

Center – a layout that consists of an object being put in the center of the layout. It is symmetrical and balanced because it lies on the center axes. A common example is a photo placed right in the center of the layout. The same effect can be achieved with a photo strip or an entire collage of photos and elements in the middle of the layout.
Since balance is inherent in the design, symmetrical designs are beautiful and easy to create.

Asymmetrical. Asymmetrical means simply “without symmetry.” In essence it just means that there are no mirror images in the composition.

Unlike symmetrical design, there are no hard and fast rules for asymmetrical design. The toughest thing about asymmetrical designs is keeping them from becoming a symmetrical design! The key to asymmetrical design is creating a look of “random distribution.” When the elements are asymetrically distributed, the layout has a sense of fun and whimsy and keeps the viewers eye moving from one element to the next.

To achieve asymmetrical balance on a layout, try this exercise. First, pick a background sheet of paper. Next, starting with a few sheets of paper in different sizes, add them to your background paper to break up the background. Next, add smaller and smaller shapes. Different sizes and shapes will help create variety in the layout design. Here’s the trick - the shapes should look like they are placed in relationship to each other and not just randomly distributed. Overlapping the elements or creating visual triangles with them helps to achieve the “random” look while still keeping a connection between elements.

How do you know if a layout is balanced? Here are a few questions you can ask:

Do you sense balance?
Does your attention wander around more or less evenly?
Do you come back to the center of the composition?
Does it look balanced from any angle?
Whether symmetrical or asymmetrical have fun maintaining balance on your layouts!