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Designing with Column Rules

InDesign Magazine Issue 129: RGB vs. CMYKThis article appeared in Issue 129 of InDesign Magazine.

Creative techniques for designing with InDesign’s column rules feature.

Column rules—lines placed between each column of a story—too often are an invisibly visible design tool. Generally, they’re used on the straight and narrow, confined to news­papers and magazines. They’re kept simple and serious, humble and quiet—their typical purpose being to help establish modular content structure or help a reader navigate skinny columns of text.

But column rules can be anything but boring. They can be used in many other contexts and designed to serve various functions—to illustrate content, to signal content type, to distinguish translations, and to add a touch of branding.

Of course, you can always draw column rules manually, using lines or shapes on your InDesign page. But with InDesign 2020’s Column Rule feature, it’s now easier than ever to set column rules that scale, move, and automatically make way for any header text set to span multiple columns. In this article, I’ll cover how to set basic column rules with this new feature, and share a few examples of column rules to jumpstart your own creativity.

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Maya P. Lim works at the intersection of design and writing to share ideas and connect with others. Her work has appeared in Design Observer, Adobe Create, and Print magazine, among other publications. Say hello on Twitter @MayaPLim