Standardize your aspect ratios

designWant to make your life easier, save time and money, and maybe even improve the quality of your communications? Then next time you redesign your website or publications — try to standardize your image aspect ratios.

What is an aspect ratio?

The aspect ratio of a photo (or any graphic) is the ratio of the width to height. Common aspect ratios are 4:3 (standard definition TV), 16:9 (high def TV) and the classic 1:1 (square). Once an image is cropped to a particular aspect ratio it can easily be resized larger or smaller without losing any of the image or doing any weird stretching.

The problem comes when you want to put a square picture (1:1) in a widescreen layout (16:9). Now you have chop off a bunch of the top and bottom to make it fit, or create a new graphic with more “stuff” on the sides to completely fill the wide slot.

If you have to publish the same information in multiple locations, this aspect ratio can cause headaches. You may need a 4:3 image for the TV screens in the hall, and 16:9 for the website feature story, a 10:4 for the skinny enews masthead, and a square one for the Facebook icon. Since they don’t resize well, you may end up creating 4 or 5 different graphics to meet all the needs. One graphic designer we know has a client that requires all graphics to be 10 different aspect ratios. This takes more time, and costs more money.

So how do we fix this? Try standardizing your aspect ratios on all the media that require recurring graphics or photos. If you have to create 4:3 graphics for the announcement slides, can you change the website to use the same ratio? Instead of creating fancy graphic banners on the enews, can you use a standard banner and put 4:3 images in the stories?

Maybe you can’t get everything to a single standard, but even getting down to 2 or 3 will help the designer as they create new graphics. If they know every graphic has to be delivered in both 4:3 and 16:9 format, they can create designs that easily crop both ways. They design the graphic, create two cropped versions, and you have everything you need. All your materials can be consistent and you’ll save hundreds of hours per year by not trying to cram a square peg in a 16:9 hole.

by Terrell Sanders