Communication is more than the words we use, it happens through form and figure, colour, composition, and typography.

Leveraging Design Principles to drive your content

Leveraging Design Principles to drive your content

When communicating we often focus on the content of the message we want to convey. We want our words to create an impact, to resonate with the reader. Yet in an era where visual communication is increasingly important thanks to social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, design can be equally, if not more important than the content we are trying to communicate. If the design of our message alienates our audience, the content will not matter.

Effective online communication is a combination of content and design, with design being the conscious and intuitive effort to bring order and coherence to the message.[1] Design has a number of fundamental components some of which are discussed below.

The IMPORTANCE of hierarchy.

In an era of short attention spans, designing effective hierarchies are essential to allow readers to know what to focus on. Hierarchies are essential to allow for the rapid absorption of relevant information because they influence the order in which the human eye perceives and takes in information.[2] There are different ways to create hierarchies. There are hierarchies of size, colour, and perspective.[3]

A simple way to create a hierarchy is through the size of the font. People will read bigger things first.[4] The typeface is also important in the creation of hierarchy. The weight and width of the font creates a hierarchy.

Using the hierarchies of the size of fonts, colours, perspective, and space not only influences the order in which the human eye perceives the information but can also simplify a complex message.[5] When we are reading complex reports or material, hierarchies can be like signposts, telling us where we have been and where we are going.

How are your F's and Z's?

Are you taking advantage of the F's and Z's patterns of your readers?

When reading blogs or content dense information, readers will first scan down the left-hand side of the article looking for words, topics or sentences that interest them. When they find something that interests them, they then read right [6]. The result is a pattern like an F.

Knowing this it is important to align important information on the left of the page and make use of short, bolded headlines, bullet points and other such attention-grabbers to break up paragraph blocks.[7]

The Z pattern applies to other sorts of pages, like ads or websites, where information is not necessarily presented in block paragraphs. In these situations, a reader's eye first scans across the top of the page, where important information is likely to be found, then shoots down to the opposite corner at a diagonal and does the same thing across the lower part of the page [8]. Here important information should be positioned at the top right, bottom left and bottom right of the page.

Remember the importance of S P A C E 

Space draws attention to itself. Space draws the eye to it and allows the reader not only to see what is important but also to rest. When we want a reader to take in what is important, we not only have to use hierarchies to draw their attention to the message, but we also must create space where they can absorb the message we are communicating. When language is dense and there is not much space on the page or the website it becomes much harder to take in the information because we cannot filter or prioritize what is important.

Likewise, if we want to encourage a person to take action, such as click on link, it is important to have space around the link, as this will draw the readers’ eye and be more likely to result in them taking the action we are encouraging.

Communication is more than the words we use, it happens through form and figure, colour, composition, and typography. Each graphical element is a "word", such as the colour of a shape. The colour palette becomes a "sentence". How those colours are woven together throughout the design becomes a "paragraph". These paragraphs communicate meaning in the design [9].

It is the effectiveness of the interplay between the words and the design that conveys the message effectively. We need to take as much care with the design as we do with the words to ensure the design assists in the communication process rather than hinder the message we want to convey.