W x L or L x W

Sherry Lee

SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 25, 2002
Phoenix, Az.
I've been meaning to ask this for ages. My last question caused it to 'surface' again.....

When we see such measurement's as 8x10, 24x36....which measurement is to be listed first? Width?? I know that not all art catalgues, furniture or home improvement descriptions follow the same standard, but surely there IS a concrete standard for this somewhere! I'm just not sure which it is and have never seen it in writing before. Just like my above measurements, I visualize 8x10 as 8"=width, but when I visualize 24x36, I perceive 24" being the length.
Sherry Lee,

The word length is not used in my shop for frame sizes. We use width and height and always in that order to prevent mistakes. My design software requires that convention to correctly calculate size when mats are not even all the way around, I.E. bottom weighted. I don't think a standard applies but, your shop should always be consistent.

Pat :D
Since the 'x' axis is horizontal and the 'y' axis is vertical (and x comes before y, right?) I think Pat's convention of width first makes sense.

I do just the opposite, but I'm consistent about it.

If you find yourself worrying about this with square frames, like I occasionally do, you have a problem.

I have worked in graphic arts many years prior to being a framer and the rule of thumb was width first, then height. For example an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper - you traditionally visualize that in a letter or vertical format.

That is my rule of thumb and how I have my POS set.

My backround is in the millwork industry. In that industry width is always first. As far as I know this is a worldwide standard in the millwork industry.
FACTS would appear to have covered this subject…. http://www.artfacts.org/standards/gen_1998.html

In this guide “INTERNATIONAL STANDARD GUIDE Taking, Recording and Communicating Dimensions” GEN-1998

FACTS do not say which should be recorded first…though they do present in the above document as follows…“Height” (Vertical)….”Width” (Horizontal)….and then “Thickness”….see section 12.0 12.0 Flat Items……

I suspect that this is not a major issue…….and as Pat said if you have a set policy it will avoid errors


FACTS do say which should be recorded first..

14.0 All dimensions
14.1 All objects shall be recorded from the recto, (face, front). Vertical dimension is recorded first, then horizontal, then thickness or depth as is illustrated.
It's not standard in the print catalogs.

American and British publishers print book titles so that they read top to bottom on the spine; French publishers print them bottom to top.

So I just assumed the difference in the catalog size listings was a 'French thing'.

In museum practice, width comes before height,
which is agonizing for those of us who are
conditioned the other way.

I always specify, to avoid confusion e.g. "W 45 x H 13 1/2 inches". Every once in awhile I have a brain lapse, and reverse the W and H.

On a slightly different topic, it's the metric vs imperial systems that I have real problems with. I cannot "do" cm, although I should. Canada is officially metric but thank heavens I'm the boss, and so can dig my heels in here. It is horrible for my Brazilian co-worker, as she is metric through and through.

Can you imagine having to try to learn feet yards, inches, 1/8's 1/16th etc, as an adult, and in a foreign language as well?? :confused:

The convention in the US is supposed to be Horizontal Dimension X Vertical Dimension. Not all publishers follow this, and not even all framers. At least be sure you're consistent within your store, or you'll get some ugly bottom (side??) weighted mats.
Vertical first!!!

Check out fine-art gallery & museum websites.

I read it somewhere?

You can trustLess.
Sherry Lee,

Good topic! This has been one of my pet peeves for years... most annoying if you order say, a 10"x8" photo to complement and be framed alongside another of the same landscape aspect - and it turns out to be an 8"x10" (in portrait format!)

In the movie collectables field, the only standard is the one based on inside knowledge, where you soon reveal yourself to be a neophyte if you don't call a 40"x60" (WxL) a 'Forty by Sixty'... or a 28"x22" (again WxL) must be called a 'Half-Sheet' or a 'Twenty-two by Twenty-eight' poster! There are several other examples that contradict, and an 8"x10" Still photo is always called just that - even when it's plainly 10'x8" (again, WxL).

It drives me crazy - especially in those instances when you want to know which aspect the item is. It amazes me that nobody in any poster book I've seen actually clears it up properly and newbies are left to figure it for themselves... until I wrote one a few years back which standardized with the "width first" rule. (Didn't make a jot of difference to anyone!)

Equally, it amazes me that the picture framing industry also lacks a clear convention. Standardization here would surely be a good thing.

Perhaps we can lobby FACTS to change to the more universal "width first" convention? Or am I just being a pedantic old drip? (Ex schoolies are prone to it!)

Trust me, I'm more comfortable with width x HEIGHT (learned something new there....when I was taught framing, I was informed it was LENGTH).

Dermot found the 'FACT' as it stands, but I agree with Rod:

Equally, it amazes me that the picture framing industry also lacks a clear convention. Standardization here would surely be a good thing.
Perhaps we can lobby FACTS to change to the more universal "width first" convention? Or am I just being a pedantic old drip? (Ex schoolies are prone to it!)

I just wonder how 'they' came up with that when writing FACTS. Perhaps there's something to squares Ron!
width then height like what has been stated. i think with the common sizes they just put the smaller number first, 8x10, 32x40, 40x60.

Consistency within a shop is probably important but what difference would an industry-wide standard make?

If you order a chop, or even a joined framed, do you think the vendor cares whether it's 11x14 or 14x11?

My own work orders specify "horizontal" or "vertical." That convention should be clear to nearly anyone. I bottom weight most of my mats and I normally put the hangers on the top.
You put the hangers on the TOP??? Now there's a novel concept!! :D

During my original questioning on this topic, I was asking in industry-wide terms.....furniture, windows, doors, etc., etc. I honestly didn't know if there was some universal standard to this and it looks like the answer is no, but I sure wish there were. So many times I've had to phone companies just to find out which is W and which is H (mostly furniture). As they say in the midwest, "Well........".
There is a standard, and it IS universal. There is a reason why too, "you must know your base before you can judge the height". Or in the Navy, it was Beam will determin how high you can run a sail. :D Ok, we did have those noise makers too. Chug, chug, chug.

But the rule of fenistration pre-dates Pathagerous, or even Ting, width then height, ALWAYS!! Architecture, furniture, art, animal husbandry, anatomy, ALWAY!. If the writers of the FACTS had gone to formal schooling, they whould have had that drilled into their heads also and have that same hole just above the left ear that I have.....

The reason we use 8x10, 11x14, 16x20 is from the photo world.... which they see the photo as laying down in a pan of water....
oops, I mean they talk from the size of paper which has no up or side until the photo is printed. Therefore the paper is quoted out smaller x larger.
Did you know that mat boards originally were 36x48 but the photo industry created the change so that you could get the 4-16x20 and 16-8x10 out of a sheet..... and that the 35mm format is not ideally suited for those sizes. But the sizes originally came from the 8x10 glass Degara type camera of the late 1800s.

Width x Heighth then depth or thickness.....

Happy Matting
Wow Baer!
What a wealth of information! It sounds to me like more folks should enlist in the Navy!

Now, let's get the word out! And respectfully ask the photo industry to help prevent 'rearrangement of the arrangement'. :eek: (Just kidding).

And perhaps it should be discussed with the fine folks at FACTS. (Not kidding). I realize this issue isn't the end of the world, but it's exciting to know that there is an answer to my ever-burning question.

Now, back to even more important matters..........
I have spent a while doing some searches and the only standard I can find for “Taking, Recording, and Communicating Dimensions” is the FACTS standard….I did use quite a few different forms of terminology for my searches and I also gave our National Standards association a call on this subject (they found it a very interesting question but could offer no help) and came up with nothing for the “Recording and Communicating” element of what is required for the Picture Framing Industry…..there are many articles on Size, Paper size, Board size etc. etc.….but I found zero on “Communicating” “Flat Dimensions” other than the FACTS Standard….I find this quite unusual as I would have expected that this would be a topic/requirement of interest for many Industries and Organizations
…..could it be that FACTS and the Picture Framing Industry have a first……I’m finding that hard to believe….but I would be very pleased if it is correct…and I think the Picture Framing Industry could give itself a clap on the back…..

From what I can make out the trust of the FACTS standard is that measurements are communicated in a correct and error free manner…….I have a feeling that the pure mathematics of size may have taken second place in the FACTS standard in the interest of clear communication…

There is a good article on paper sizes at this link http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/iso-paper.html
there is even a standard size in that article for “Toilet” paper…….now how did they manage to work out that size !!!!! :eek:

I like this subject as it is about “communication” and I feel that clarity in communication is one way to reduce costs and reduce stress in the work place……
I did a copy/paste on this subject and emailed it to HH's yesterday in hopes some FACTS guru's would chime in, but to date I haven't seen it post yet. If it's not up by noon I'll try again.

I agree with Ron & others that the 'bottom line' is the consistency you use in your shop, but like Dermot, Rod and others have said, you would think there would be a concrete standard on this....and certainly within FACTS.

And back to 'hangers'....Ron 'hooked' me onto the Wallbuddies and I understand why he may be a bit "freakish" over them....they ARE great and my customers really like them!!
I tried to send an email to Nona, but when I used the email address in her G profile it kicked back at me. I suspect she'll see it on HH.

If you read the FACTS Standard they clearly state how the measurements/dimensions should be “Taken, Recorded and Communicated”

…..I’m sorry for the error that I made in my earlier post (it had been a long time since I read the FACTS Standard)….it could have given the impression that the FACTS Standard was a bit undecided…..the FACTS Standard is very definite on how measurements should be recorded

I did a good search to see if any other organisation had a Standard rather than a suggestion or recommendation on how this type of measurement should be recorded….I’m surprised not to find anything else other than the FACTS Standard…..it looks to me that FACTS are setting the Standard on this one…..not just for the Picture Framing Industry but for all similar applications….

Once again sorry for any confusion I caused earlier.

Again I say…. great subject…….I did not have your courage to raise this a few years ago when I pondered the same subject……I then found the FACTS Standard and worked with it….it makes sense to me….though it is not a big issue…..the main saving from this in a business will be the reduction in errors by having a standard way of recording measurements..
Originally posted by Cliff Wilson:
I tried to send an email to Nona, but when I used the email address in her G profile it kicked back at me. I suspect she'll see it on HH.
Nona's email NonaPowers@cox.net this was on one of her posts a week or so ago..

BTW, Hitchhikers appears to be down for now.

Or I have been removed from the list, which seems more likely. :D

And, anyway, most of the "FACTS gurus" are on The Grumble.
I'm sure that everyone has a goal of absolute perfection for the whole frame. However, if you have a stick of moulding that has some "less perfect" sections on the outside edge (as opposed to the top or face) would you put the "less perfect" piece on top where it can't be seen while hanging? If so, it would help to know what was the width and height.
My POS requires width & then height. I think all the framing POS programs are the same on this point. This allows the size to be computed correctly if using weighted mats & also figures the amount of fabric required for the wrap, pricing accordingly. My work order also prints out the words vertical (portrait) or horizontal (landscape)...which sure can come in handy!

I'll still verbally call a poster 24x36 no matter what direction the image is -- but I record a horizontal format as 36x24!
intuitively its clear that base comes first.
for ease of recording it seems sml then lrg (also intuitive as numbers grow ,ie, 1,2,3,etc.)
and lastly, practically, an indication of orientation---- V or H.