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What Comes First? Width or Height?

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I had a conversation with a fellow sign-maker recently that turned into a battle of wits. It was fun. No harm, no foul. We were both trying to convince the other of whether width or height comes first in the world of 2D measurements.

Thus, the inspiration for this article.

Whether you’re into a building project and ordering windows, or designing the perfect tradeshow exhibit, providing accurate measurements is manditory.

However, the one thing that plauges the world of measurements is orientation.

Let’s take an 8 foot by 4 foot banner. Which way is it oriented? Landscape or Portrait? Tall or wide? Is that measured east to west, or north to south? There are many approaches to resolving references to orientation. But what indicators are there that will set your perspective in stone? What is the standard?

What comes first?

The Graphics’ industry standard is width by height (width x height). Meaning that when you write your measurements, you write them from your point of view, beginning with the width.

That’s important. When you give us instructions to create an 8×4 foot banner, we’ll design a banner for you that is wide, not tall.

So, who says width by height is “The Standard”? I can break it out by layout programs such as Quark, Photoshop, Illustrator, or Indesign. They all use the width by height order to determine orientation. But, let’s take it down to a more natural level. Which way do you read (assuming you read English literature)? Left to right, first, then down the length of the page.

Not proof enough? Leave a comment. Let’s hear your opinion.

Comments (56) Posted in File Prep by at 3:17 pm
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56 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. I think the reasoning is simple and anatomical: our eyes are oriented horizontally on our faces. So I think we are more quickly and likely to think in terms of a more horizontal world around us as the priority.

    Comment by Gretchen — August 19, 2015 @ 5:58 pm
  2. Layout orientation-wise using a letter-sized paper,
    8.5×11 = portrait
    11×8.5 = landscape

    Width x Height
    Width = top margin
    Height = left margin

    Comment by Rust — August 26, 2015 @ 2:20 pm
  3. It’s not idiotic to ask a question. I could say that it’s idiotic to think only of paper as only being 8 1/2″ x 11″ because actually it could be either way…..if I wanted a landscape type. Duh!

    Comment by Crystal — September 5, 2015 @ 2:07 pm
  4. a 4×8 sheet of drywall is actually 4 high x 8 wide. Since drywall is installed running wider rather than taller…… HxW makes more sense, no ?

    Comment by Miguel — September 8, 2015 @ 11:58 am
  5. I always list my measurements as like this: 10 1/4″W x 13″H and so on.

    Comment by Jay Tucker — September 18, 2015 @ 9:10 am
  6. In normal practice, the smaller value is assumed to be the width and the bigger value as the height or length. So 8 X 3 would be H X W and 3 X 8 would be W X H.

    Comment by tinashe — November 5, 2015 @ 12:04 am

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