To my indignant client, and possibly for the amusement of my fellow designers,
(actually, everyone should read this)
Ads! Right? No one wants to see them. But everyone thinks theirs deserves to be seen.
Successful ads have ONE single message. Unsuccessful ads have 2. Or (dun-dun-dunnnn) more. This is why the headline and the image need to work together. This is why we have hierarchy, people! This is why all the elements on a page are not as big as they can possibly be, nor should they fill in every pixel. Viewers will absolutely not bother finding an “entry-point” into the piece on their own. Do not give them everything at once. In fact, don’t give them a few things! One, remember? Just one. Got it? Okay, moving on.
To the human eye, an ad/piece is conveyed in a 1,2,3 step process. This is how the brain works… It’s science. No matter that I failed science in the 7th grade. Just trust me, I read this somewhere…
Hierarchy: 1: Image, 2: Headline, 3: Supporting/explanatory copy (yet short and sweet). If it looks too busy, people will never make it past step 1.
Elements are like people. In order to have harmony, there shouldn’t be competition. (I know what you’re going to say, capitalist-enthusiast. Quiet, you!) Some are subordinate, and others are dominant. Fighting for attention happens, for example, if there is more than one headline. Unity is a completely different thing. I won’t get into it, but it’s a thing. And it’s different.
Basically, you need to understand hierarchy. That 1,2,3 thing we talked about? Yeah. (You could have 4 & 5, but you’ve gotta understand the rules before you break ’em, mister/missy!) Hierarchy is achieved using: size, style (i.e. font family), position (generally left to right, & high to low), weight, and color & value.
With text, people filter them into only two categories: most important, and less important. People will not bother to establish “medium-important” text.
My main goal, as a designer, is to get the message across in the least amount of steps. Part of this means giving people a reason to stop and look. For every piece, I ask myself, “Why should I/anyone/the viewer care?” Does it speak to the viewer personally? Is it funny? Is it smart? Does it have emotion? What kind of attitude does it have? Is it hungry? Is it sleepy? Change its diaper!
If you want to give people more information, the place to do it is on a website. Imagine an ad with an image and a website link. Curious, right? Enticing. Seductive. Look, I know you have faith in your business (and at this point, I could write books about the benefits of your product). I know you want to pour your heart and soul out about it, but you just can’t. That’s like saying “I love you” on the first date. It may work for some, but most people will be totally freaked out and never call you again. It’s overwhelming.
There’s making things easy to grasp, and then there’s trying to shove things down their throat.
Okay, let’s take a step back.
In design, we always try to subtract. Less is more. Silence is golden. People tend to want to fill in space; it’s tempting. But designers are trained to balance space on the tip of a finger. So when all the ads are screaming at you for attention, good designers know it is the often most reserved, easiest to understand, and cleverest, which will grab and hold attention.
This doesn’t mean imagery can’t be intricate. Time and place for everything (except bad design… actually there is a place for that, too… the garbage!). Like music, there is a tempo to design… It ideally goes: Stop, look. Change, stop, read, laugh/sigh/surprise. Change, stop, read more. Then look more into the sale, and perhaps go back and analyze the sheer BEAUTY of the ad.
It is my job, as a visual communicator, to sell a product or service; to digest information and decide what the viewer needs to know. Once the viewer has internalized the message, the sale is out of my hands.
Please be patient with me.
This is my job.
This is what I’ve trained many years for!
And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
So I respect your opinion,
But you’re wrong.
I really really really don’t want to make the changes you’ve given me.
It is abhorrent to unlearn my training and make a bad design.
Please embrace change and playfulness.
I will do my best to use your voice and personal style.
I will do my best to take baby steps with you and our audience.
It may not look like the old stuff, but it’s my job to keep feeding it to people; to freshen it up; to simply think of the essence of the box, when everyone else is concerned with their placement in relation to it. (That just sounded like an artsy metaphor, I haven’t thought it all the way through.)
Please don’t dampen my excitement.
We can make this better! After 7 drafts/concepts, though, sometimes we’ve gotta say “Yes. Done. Push it out of the nest.”
Your almost-out-of-guts-but-not-ideas designer.
“Based on notes from Advertising Design And Typography, by Alex W. White 2015”