Does your design hierarchy

aid marketing success?


When it comes to the structure and layout of design, Steve Krug’s book: “Don’t make me think” tells it like it is. And whilst it was written over twenty years ago with websites in mind, his conclusion that “people don't read web pages, they scan them” is just as important to know today when designing anything for public consumption.

Whatever you want to design, you want people to understand it and respond to it in a timely way. Whilst the content you include must be engaging, you don’t want people spending ages trying to find the right information, hence the fact that a good, clear and logical layout can make the difference between marketing campaign success and failure.

…a good, clear and logical layout can make the difference between marketing campaign success and failure.

What not to add!

However, what’s as important as having the right content, is learning what NOT to put in. As business owners we often think we need to tell our audience everything. To counter this, we try to overload people with too much information, when all they really want is the bare bones. My advice here is a change of mindset. Rather than thinking “How can I fit all this in here?”, instead concentrate on “What is appropriate to include, so I get the best design/results?”

However, as designers, we can sometimes be given reams of text and asked to 'make it look better'. Obviously, we can always create a neat and attractive layout using the content that’s supplied, but often we'll suggest changes to improve its readability and reduce the amount of it – especially if they have written it themselves and it’s 140 pages long! Also, it’s worth remembering that if clients don’t want the hassle of editing it down themselves, we collaborate with professional editors and copywriters who are always ready to write something punchy or craft something better. And with the right content, it’s always easier to create a better design that works harder for you.

Design not art

At the heart of graphic design is the desire to make a layout 'work'. Yes, it should look attractive, but it also needs to be easily understandable by the reader, and this isn't just about the copy itself. An unusual or funky layout may look great, but if it doesn't help you to understand the content then it's art rather than design.

Everyone appreciates the role that colour, contrast, repetition, texture and typography play in effective design. But did you know that when it comes to your layout, hierarchy, as well as balance, alignment, proximity, and space, also need to apply? Let’s deal with the first of these – hierarchy.

Less is more

Hierarchy relates to what your marketing collateral is for. You need to decide what you want the reader to think and/or do having read it. In most cases this means you want to hook them in, not tell them chapter and verse about everything. With this in mind, you should include:

Headlines: Generally short and larger than everything else so they can be easily read.

Subheadings: Larger than the body text, but smaller than the main headline they support, often adding context to the headline.

Introductory paragraph: Separated from main body text by a slightly larger font, different colour or alignment.

Body text: Usually arranged in paragraphs, aligned left, at a legible size, with clear line spacing.

Testimonials/pull-quotes: With space around them, in larger and perhaps a different font.

Captions: In the same size font as the body text, or a little smaller, aligned with the bottom left or right of the picture, or running vertically up the side of the image.

Small print: Designed for legal text or footnotes so smaller but legible font size should be used.

Get these deceptively simple things right and your designs will work harder and produce better results.

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