Chapter 5 - Design

Setting Up Visual Hierarchy

Arranging page elements into a clear visual hierarchy is one of the most important things you can do to put your readers on an effortless ride from start to finish. A visual hierarchy (a) portrays the relationship between elements and (b) visually prioritizes content by order of importance allowing users to effortlessly follow visual cues.

None of this is new. Visual hierarchies are all around you – in newspapers, magazines, websites, and billboards. The everyday reader just doesn’t think about it, and that’s exactly the point – they shouldn’t have to think about it. However, you are not the everyday reader and visual hierarchies are an important tool in your arsenal.

Here are a few of the most important techniques:

  • Give greater emphasis to the most important elements. Do this with the careful and consistent use of color, size, placement, special effects (like drop shadows), font weight, or some combination of these.
  • Visualize the relationship of elements through the use of obvious headers, consistent styling or by placing them in a clearly defined area. As you do this, take special care not to overcrowd a defined area. You want it to be obvious that you are grouping similar elements but you don’t want to cram everything in such a small space that your text is touching the outside margins or there is so little white space that it feels overwhelming.

Utilize the Space Cleanly and Creatively

Be creative with your use of space. First, think of how you are going to creatively visualize or display your data or information and then piece it all together in a custom fit way. This infographic is a wonderful example of using space effectively and creatively: Nursing Your Sweet Tooth.

Nursing Your Sweet

View Full Infographic: Nursing Your Sweet Tooth

In this example, it’s obvious that the designer put a lot of thought into how they could creatively visualize the data. Then they organized the elements in a way that showcases their unique and creative visualizations versus the less effective approach of conforming your visualizations to fit into a predefined and templated spatial organization. As a result, this infographic feels very high quality and custom.

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