Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Long Canvas — Designed for Scrolling

A City of Cathay_02

Over the past five or six years web designers have worked at devising “fluid” alternatives to “fixed” web page layouts. The increase in the variety of screen sizes has prompted a search for visual layouts that can easily be modified.

However, many of the new layout methods do not make use of visual composition.

Unlike a painter’s canvas, viewers of web pages only see a section of the whole page at any given moment. To move from one section of the page to another, a scroll bar is used.

In contrast, traditional composition is all about meaningfully connecting the different visual sections with the whole. So why bother with composition when the web page as a whole will never be seen, and isn’t composition even less necessary if we’re talking about viewing web pages on a phone?

These questions prompted me to take a closer look at a physical scroll, to find out how people from the past have approached composition for scrolls, and to see how their methods could be used to create compositions for the web.

Figures 1 and 2 show a section of a Chinese scroll1, and a compositional analysis of the same section.

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