It’s Not Just About Fonts, Colors and Pictures

5 suggestions for engaging busy and distracted readers.

1 The eye lands on the page at upper left — but not all the way at the upper left corner. So that’s where to put the content you want them to see first. Text that begins near the very edge of the page is quite often overlooked, no matter how much you want people to read it. The eye, generally speaking, then moves down and to the right. Keep that path in mind when positioning the first word of body text in relation to the last word of the headline.

2 Can’t think of a visual to use? The safe bet is to show people pictures. Specifically, a face or two with warm, confident smiles. Sure, it’s been done before. But there’s a reason. From birth, we’re conditioned to respond to human faces. In fact, we can detect subtle indications of mood and attitude within milliseconds. A positive expression causes a positive emotional response, even if it’s subconscious. And it’s not just psychological — there’s actually a biochemical component to this reaction.

3 All great things start with an outline. Make a list of each element you want to see on each page or panel of your graphic design. Take your time sorting, prioritizing and balancing the various persuasive elements and the mandatory bits and pieces. This planning exercise will shave lots of time off the actual layout creation, because it simplifies the task and allows us to focus. Overall, stay disciplined in applying your outline, but be flexible enough to make changes if there’s a good reason.

4 Credibility is everything. And while a professional looking graphic design doesn’t guarantee it, credibility is pretty hard to achieve without it. Limit your palette of colors, fonts and graphic elements. You only need two or three colors that go well together, not a whole rainbow. Pick one serif font family and one sans-serif font family and just work with those. And two pure design elements (including the graphic in your logo design) are plenty, but you can shake ’em up and use them in different ways on the page.

5 Make it easy to read, or people just plain won’t read it. Making that text smaller may make it fit your layout better, but it’s more likely to be ignored. Very wide blocks of text are likewise intimidating to the eye. But it helps if there’s additional vertical space between each line. Words that don’t have enough contrast with the background, or that are placed on top of a photograph can likewise be a problem; the more words, the bigger the problem.


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