When a period cramps your style
In visual communication, having a full stop (British English) or period (American English) can be quite redundant.
This extends to skipping the full stop at the end of sentences. This rule applies to most punctuation with the exception of the question mark and, in some cases, the ellipsis or colon.
There is logic behind the missing full stop in graphic design. All typography, including punctuation marks, is counted as a design element and does not just serve its typical descriptive function in normal text. All visual elements, including the full stop, must serve a purpose – or risk becoming a visual distraction.
Define your purpose, period
As a design element, the full stop can make an impact on the reader. It becomes a point of focus and makes the reader stop to take note of the important word or statement it is highlighting.
Which design makes you feel more excited about the coffee? Clearly the full stops used for Design B delivers the right emphasis, creating an emotive element to both text and design. It also fits into the current online lingo, making the copy more relevant if the target market is to a younger audience. You can use the full stop to lead readers to your main point.
Titles on point
In most scenarios, having a full stop at the end your sentence is unnecessary.
The example below shows how removing the period doesn’t divert the meaning of the sentence. The punctuation – remember it’s a design element here – has no purpose other than being a distraction. Period elimination makes the design pleasing to the eye.
Watch out if the period paints a different picture
Aesthetics aside, the presence of a period can change the meaning of a title into a firm statement. If that is your intention, then that’s fine. But do this sparingly, and justify your point of emphasis.
Let’s look at the jewellery ad above. Both wordings can be used depending on context and intention. What do you want to emphasise to your audience? Design E is acceptable, but the impact is stronger in Design F.
Design E can be even more impactful even without the full stop if the ad shows a well-photographed piece of jewellery that makes a statement in itself. However, the jewellery item must be striking enough to visualise the statement. The main focus is the jewellery and the copy only serves to complement the visual.
Having both the period and the strong visual may seem like overkill – the advertising equivalent of beating a dead horse.
Stop full stops
Say your design – an infographic, for example – has a title and sub-headers. The full stop is unnecessary here as it gets in the way of the design aesthetic. The size of the font alone can differentiate the headline, the sub-headers and the rest of the copy.
In the example below, note the visual difference with a period (G) and without (H).
In Design G, the periods for the title and subtitle has caused a change of alignment in the entire design layout. It seems like a small distortion but it’s still obvious and jarring to the eyes – like a speck of dirt on a blank piece of paper.
Design H presents a cleaner look with the absent periods. The meaning and integrity of the copy is retained, the text alignment is neat, and your designer can finally eat her lunch – at 4pm.
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