How to stand out? Design principles to the rescue

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The major visual element should be placed slightly to the left of the optical center of the page to achieve optimal balance.
Graphic by Vicky Shi, adapted from “Creative Editing”

The average person sees and hears hundreds of advertisements per day, such as billboards, newspapers, fliers and television commercials. People glance at or listen to these advertisements for a single second before moving on with their days. How does one break through the overflow of information and capture the audience’s attention?

The answer: Balance, contrast, proportion and unity.

Be balanced

The graphic to the left illustrates the importance of using the appropriate sequence of design to achieve balance. According to “Creative Editing,” the layout editor should place the dominant element, whether it is a photograph or story, to the left of the optical center. This placement serves as a focal point for balancing the remainder of the page.

Create contrast

After determining the focal point, the rest of the elements should be smaller and contrasting, according to “Creative Editing.” Layout editors often create contrast by adding color, which can be done in InDesign by manipulating the percentages of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black in the “Colors” box. Moreover, the use of drop caps creates visual interest in the lines of tiny print. Editors can create drop caps by using InDesign to highlight the first letter and click the bottom right-most button in the “Paragraph” box.

Perfect proportions

As “Creative Editing” says, the most aesthetically pleasing ratio between elements on a page is 3 to 5. Using InDesign, editors can drag the corners of text boxes and photographs to manipulate size. To keep the photographs proportionally sized, the editor can hold the “Shift” key while using the sizing tool.

Use unity

Finally, unity stipulates that there should be a common theme throughout all the pages. In InDesign, editors ensure that section headlines, captions, and headlines are consistent by making the settings in the “Character” box identical for each element.

These four design principles – balance, contrast, proportion and unity – are essential to standing out among the hundreds of mundane advertisements.

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