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How Algebra is Used in Graphic Design

written by: Amber Neely•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 4/21/2012

How do you use algebra in graphic design? This article explains how algebra has been applied to graphic design both in the past, as well as how it may be applied in the future, and how programs like Photoshop have drastically changed the amount of algebra required for graphic design.

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    Graphics Design and Algebra: The Beginning

    Graphic Design Tools (Pre-Digital Era)  Graphic design isn't something new. For years and years, people have been designing labels and packaging for their products. But what happened before programs like Photoshop came along to make things easier? Why did you even have to use algebra in graphic design to begin with?

    Well, look at it this way: each logo and custom typeface had to be rough-drafted by hand, and the process of spacing, aligning, and centering text or images needed to be done by using a series of algebraic equations. For example, if you knew your label for a bottle was five inches long, and you had a logo that was two inches long, a set of text that needed to be four inches long, and you needed to include information on the side that was roughly two inches long, you would have to start with the measurements you knew and the measurements you need to know can be easily figured out through an algebraic equations.

    It's a lot like your high school math class, except this time you have to write the problems out yourself! The downside to this method was obviously that projects would end up taking a very long time, and you had to possess both mathematical skill as well as artistic ability. And lets not forget about what would happen if your calculations were even just a bit off. You could easily be forced to scrap your entire project and start over again.

    Image Credit: mandolux

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    Graphics Design and Algebra: Introducing Photoshop & The Digital Era

    photoshoplogo When graphics design software became easily available and contained more features, the need for algebraic equations lessened. Is that to say it's completely gone? Of course not. While Photoshop offers a ton of alignment, scaling, and other positioning tools, you still need to be able to apply them to the measurements of your page.

    For example, if you need to make a three leaf brochure out of a standard sheet of printer paper, you do need to know how to split your paper into thirds. While you may not have to break out your rulers, calculators, and lots of tracing paper, you still need to have a solid mathematical foundation.

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    Graphics Design and Algebra: The Future?

    Is it possible that as programs like Photoshop grow more expansive and feature-packed, the need for algebra may be completely eliminated? Possibly, though not very likely. Even if that were the case, there is something incredibly satisfying about knowing that you have the capability to do it the "old way", to be able to design something from the ground up without having to rely on a program to walk you through it. Not to mention, it stands to reason that no amount of computer help will ever replace a designer's eye and good old-fashioned know how.