There’s no shame in it.
We’ve all made this mistake at some point in our lives.
Until someone actually points out that center-aligning
more than one line of text
is a horrible design decision, almost everyone
believes it’s a surefire method for showing design chops.
Worse? It’s ugly.
Worse yet?! It’s difficult to read.
Always left-align or right-align your text.
The only types of text you can get away center-aligning in your visual designs are:
- Titles (though, these are often best left-aligned)
- Major headings (though, these are often best left-aligned)
- Areal feature toponyms (e.g., Russia should be centered in the middle of Russia, though letter spacing will also be needed depending on the scale of your map)
- One-to-two sentences of text you want to stand out in the midst of many left-aligned paragraphs (see three paragraphs below)
- Image captions (though, these are often best left- or right-aligned)
Many people shy away from right-aligning text, and of course, in general left-aligning is almost always preferable. However, text alignment is important for guiding your map reader through a visualization.
Right-text alignment comes in handy when you have text boxes or info windows on the right-hand side of a map. The reason is simple. You can visually align the right-side of your text with the right-hand edge of other map elements. That being said…
If you right-align text, make sure you view Design Tip #3, or it will likely look horrible.
Alignment leads to harmony of form. Objects in alignment are seen as continuous, belonging together — straight-up Gestalt theory! (Yup, I went there. Pulling out the old intro psychology book.) This often helps you balance your map in an asymmetrical fashion.
Centered text is not only difficult to read, but it forces an artificial symmetry on your map and map elements. If you center align one object, then anything else not center aligned underneath it looks misaligned. This disturbs the gestalt and form of your map. This in turn leads to everything from imperceptible discomfort to downright nausea among your map viewers.
You do not want this! So please, for the love of <insert deity or super hero here>, stop center-aligning your text.
Your maps and visualizations will immediately look 100-times better and far more professional.