How to Design Eye-Catching
(Reports or anything else you want people to read)
This set of notes is based on a one day Career Track Seminar. The seminar content is
built around topics with the greatest payback for graphic design novices. It does not
waste your time on ideas and techniques you will seldom use or need. The presenter
was Alan Fortenberry of Oklahoma City.
Overview of content
What good design is - according to research and facts, not just opinion.
What 'bad' design looks like and how to prevent it.
Ways to point your readers to what is important and away from what is not.
Simple graphic devices that speak louder than words (helpful to know when space
How different colours affect readability (some colours compel, others repel).
Where to put subheads for maximum effect.
What typefaces, sizes and styles work best.
The most effective way to use bullets, drop caps and dingbats.
Giving your work the 'ideal' look for commanding attention.
In designing a piece of work you need to consider the following.
1 Begin with the end in mind - you need to know the audience.
2 You need to know what is the objective.
3 What is it that you want your audience to do?
Good design is a matter of opinion. Whose opinion matters most? Is it the reader or
the boss? This workshop is about the knowledge you need to take to get good design.
Fonts can create a mood.
Some fonts are easier to read.
Where are the places on a page that catch the eye?
What about readers? It helps to consider three types.
1 Non readers 10 - 15 % of population.
2 Avid readers 10 - 15 % of population.
3 Skim readers 70 - 80 % of population.
How can you attract non-readers? With pictures.
How do you attract avid readers? Avid readers like lots of words
How do you attract the attention of skimmers? With design. Design does not have
to be beautiful to be eye-catching.
What comes under the heading of things that need good design? Newsletters,
brochures, web-sites, flyers, posters, power-point presentation material, technical
design sheets, questionnaires, programmes, mail shots, etc.
Customers of Your Work
The goal is to attract people's attention. There are 3 stages a reader goes through.
1. Relevance - you have people's attention for up to 7 seconds only - some reject
after only one second.
Taking item 1 from above - What is in it for ME? You have up to 7 seconds
to attract a person's attention. The average person can read 4 words per
second. So the maximum number of words that are available are 7 x 4 = 28.
To catch someone's attention you can:
1 Spell out benefits
2 Develop an eye-catching headline. (needs to be less than 12 words)
3 Show a photograph.
4 Create a caption that includes a benefit.
Need to contain information. Create a mood with your headline. Throw in a teaser -
What will you remember most about your day out?
Involve your reader. There are 18 words that really catch attention and matter most to
Free Proven Fun
How (to) Safe Save
You (Your) Now Guarantee
Benefit Love Results
Money (or a variation) Easy Discover
New Health Explore (experience)
The whole design needs to be customer/reader centred.
For example when buying a computer. The salesman talks in technical language
instead of focussing on the benefits to the user or reader.
How many times do you refer to the reader and yourself? Need a 2 to 1 ratio reader to
Things that attract attention or create interest in Headlines.
1. Familiar saying with a twist.
2. Use of opposite words - "Downhill ski-ing should not be an uphill experience."
3. Statistics or facts.
6. How to ..
7. Shock factor in title - be careful can offend people.
8. Photographs - pictures are worth a thousand words. If you have two pictures, one
with and one without a frame. The one with the frame has the most pulling power.
Note that you should show only what you want your reader to see. Remove all but
essentials from image.
Alan showed an image of a mountain landscape. The caption read - "Picture
yourself in beautiful Arizona". This is selling the experience. "You will hike in
these spectacular mountains". This refreshing pool awaits you." "Wave hi to the
folks back home".
Good design gets the results you want from the target audience
You can use 'before and after' images. Alan illustrated this with three images, the
one the left a poor looking plant in a plant pot. The one in the centre a 'bottle of
Bio'. The one on the right a healthy looking plant. This is how we read in our
culture but beware of giving a misleading message in other cultures.
Put people in photos - as a reader if you see someone you like you can identify
Young children in design create an emotional connection.
Animals forge an emotional connection. An example was a brochure for San
Diego zoo - it showed a Panda on the front page.
People read captions - put details in your captions. Couple these with good
pictures. One of the reasons for the long-term success of National Geographic is
the quality of its pictures and captions. (National Geographic has pictures with
captions of up to 300 words but in general newsletter articles should never be
longer than 250 words.)
Tools that are available for confirmation to reader include, short body
text, less than 50 words. A side bar story - relevant to the main story.
"Pull" quote in headline - they really work.
Sub-headings, use these with less than 50 words. An example would be the main
points of a budget on front page of newspaper.
Benefits list - a benefit list for a reader with odd numbers are more effective than
even. For example Steven Covey's "The seven habits of Highly Successful
People". 101 benefits, the 21 characteristics of a leader. In Clint Eastwood's
hometown there was an accident black spot with a speed limit of 25 miles per
hour. The accidents stopped when the limit was raised to 27.5 miles per hour. It
was an unexpected eye catching sign.
Use non-photographic art, charts, graphs, data, and cartoons but watch out for
copyright. One man took pictures of clip art images and created a disc set "Photo
object 4.0" with 20000 images - these are better than clip art.
Graphic devices - such as Drop Caps - these tell a 'skimmer' where to start. Rules
for use include - bottom of graphic needs to be level with line. Left-hand side
must be even with the column. No more than 3 per sheet of A4. Can be big - letter
size should be 3 to 6 times larger than body text. I.e. body text 10, between 30 to
60 points for drop cap. Watch out for Drop Caps spelling something - Fast Action
Wingdings or DingBats - highlight important copy, with bullet points use arrow
or pencils not single dots. Use something to match the content - for example a
logo or product image - reduced in size.
End of article markers. A Drop Cap at the beginning and a DingBat at the end -
shows skimmers where to start and where to end.
Boxes and Bullet Points
Numbers show graduated importance - show steps - bullet points show things
equally (equal value).
Shade something to catch attention - only use black text on a grey tint.
Tints really stand out.
Never go below 70 % on a dark background with white letters.
Screens and tints - people's eyes are drawn to these - with black text do not go
more than 30 %.
Blue writing on a blue screen is OK. Do not use yellow.
In this section tell the reader what to do next. There are 2 means - One, long
body text - break it up for skimmers - less than 4 pages OK but more than 4
pages provide table of contents. Two provide proof confirms to reader that
you are making the right decision. Put a review on every page.
Proof only works if it is good proof. (Quantas the safest airline)
Gem museum at Cree Town. It won the top tourist attraction award in 1987!
The two best ways to provide proof are endorsement and testimonials. Michael
Jordan earns millions providing endorsements.
With endorsements people get paid. People want to be like Mike.
With testimonials - people have used the product and they are testifying. Make
sure there are names, company and position in the company identified. You want
to make it as believable as you can. (If you rang up the person would they say the
Layout and Grids
Asymmetrical grid - here you focus on the uniqueness of the design. They appeal to
the younger audience.
Symmetrical grid - balance left and right, and also top and bottom. Can use columns
and they appeal to more conservative readers.
Six rules to use in design -
1 Upper left hand corner carries more weight.
2 Something that is darker carries more weight than lighter shades.
3 Something that is in colour carries more weight than something in black and
4 Something that is larger carries more weight.
5 Something in white space carries more weight.
6 Unusual shapes carry more weight. The best shape is a star burst (in top left). A
circle is unusual or a cut out image of a person on a white background.
Things that Motivate People at Work (Newsletters)
1. Verbal appreciation from boss.
2. Seeing their name in print.
3. Seeing something about themselves (What's in it for me). (employees or
4. A thing that people dislike in a company newsletter is a picture of the boss or a
letter from the boss on the front page. Do not put it on the front or back page. Best
page is the inside front cover. Get action picture of him doing something. Get rid
of 'warm-up' text and make it 'newsy'.
Web site www.rogercparker.com
Book - "Desk Top Design for Dummies" by Roger C Parker.
Paper Direct - at www.paperdirect.com Ask for free catalogue.
Book - "How to Create High Impact Design"
Book - "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goldman
www.put-it-in-writing.com Down load a newsletter on design
The way your eye flows across the page. Everyone in
our society looks at the page in the same way. That is in
a 'Z' pattern. It is the way we read. So we need to place
our elements in this pattern. Put the most important
image or element in position 1 - 2 and the least
important at the bottom right hand.
The bottom right hand area is known as the terminal
area. It is the last thing that readers see - so tell them at
this point what to do. This is the action area. We have a
tendency to say too much here. So keep it simple and
E.g. RING NAME - TELEPHONE No. XXX
Use short sentences, not more than 12 words. Use simple
words - not 3 syllables! Design it for a 14-year-old.
Remember that if people are motivated they will look up
a new word. If it is 'junk' mail they will not bother to go
look up a new word in a dictionary. Poor grammar puts people off and they stop
Several pages - turn quickly to ensure that they are all there.
Clear your mind - grammar and spelling done by separate people.
Phone numbers must be correct - check - wrong number no business.
Areas on sheet:
One and Five most important
Three is next most important
Four is the blind area - can be used for bad news. Use long body text.
Five is the area for the call to action.
Four - if the price is high put the information in four
One - if the price is good put it in one
If you want to draw attention do not use too many words - will not be read.
If you emphasise everything nothing is emphasised
Make sure that you have the messages in the right place. What is in it for me goes in
one. Call for action goes in five etc.
Remember parents want details, teenagers do not read text - they like 'cool' pictures.
If you want the reader to cut out and return a coupon put scissors image along dotted
Use numbers for telling readers
the way to read. Never put
something at the bottom of the
page if you have not finished
reading the page
Be careful how you place eyes on a page - do not have them looking off the page.
Keep people's eyes at same level.
Use motion where possible.
Shaded areas give more weight.
Note in own design put good
news in shaded areas and bad
news in the clear.
The design should look like one person designed it. There are 7 elements that
contribute to unity.
1. The typography - FONTS - 120000 fonts available. Use one font for headlines
and one for the body text. One for the letterhead and one for the body text.
2. Paper - slick glossy shiny paper is perceived as hard sell. For friendly paper use
off white non-glossy. Feel of paper is more important than the content in CV?
3. Art. Be consistent with clip art; use same artist and same size.
Colour of paper
Colour of ink - for impact use black and one other colour. More colours are a
If you emphasise everything nothing stands out.
Use black or blue for text.
What you want people to see put it in colour.
Do not use same colours as the tax office or electricity bills!
Use the colour of money? Has a link with money.
Do not use pink, yellow or fluorescent colours.
Use lots of DingBats to attract attention.
5 Size - Bigger is better. Larger elements stand out. The unusual stands out.
6 Graphic Devices - DingBats, Drop Caps, Bullet Points.
7 Symmetrical or asymmetrical?
If you want to something to stand out use a one-column design. The rule is to
align left and ragged right. With justify your eye flows down the page too quickly.
Two column grids are formal and conservative. They have a polished, clean,
technical image - use 'justify' - very straightforward. If you want to be taken
seriously use two columns.
A three-column grid is 'skimmer' friendly, informal, casual, reassuring, and
relaxed. Use more graphic devices for skimmers. Align left and ragged right. If
you 'justify' the narrow columns leave big holes. Example shown 'Idea Source',
this had consistent clip art used as Drop Caps. Lines between columns prevent the
reader 'jumping' columns. Do not want a space less than quarter of an inch if you
put a line in. In newsletters single space may be a problem. Go for one and a half
space instead, with double space between paragraphs. Keep your fonts consistent
and do not vary sizes. Use a question and answer layout where applicable. They
are useful for skimmers.
Focus on the top half of brochure - can be seen in racks. Should answer 'What's in
it for me?'
Do not put your company logo on top of brochure.
Inside must be consistent with outside.
The fishing museum in Grimsby has a good brochure - has "Toughest Job in the
World" on front cover.
The Jorvik brochure is the best designed brochure Alan has seen in Britain.
Be careful what you put on the other side of a tear out section. Do not put part of
the programme or map of how to find the location on the back for instance.
If you leave a space for a stamp you can put the address of the organisation where
the display is located so that you can track brochures.
Such things as a competition can track newsletters (on back page with a picture of
a person who won the last competition.)
If you want people to save newsletters four hole punch them.
If you want people to respond to a newsletter:
1 Use response cards that fall out.
2 Staple a response card inside.
3 Use a perforated margin and tear off.
Originally was for making notes in margin. Use now for pull quotes, calendars, sub
headings, tables of content, graphics, pictures, list of people who work on paper. Use
for listing all the activities of an organisation. Can be across the top of the page. They
work well on web sites, display boards and newspapers.
White space creates balance. Need 15% in design. Margins draw your attention to
text. Go for 25% white space. With posters and power point displays try 50%.
Remember to check is the design balanced? Is the grid appropriate for the audience?
It is important that fonts are legible and can be read, are readable and will be read.
Serif are read more accurately than sans serif font
Sans serif is quicker to read but read with less accuracy.
For headlines use sans serif
Use serif for body text.
Road signs are in sans serif
There are three decisions for 'readability' - font, size, and weight.
Captions - use serif - 2 points larger or one point smaller in bold. Sans serif can be
same size but in bold.
Body text should be between 9 and 12 points in regular weight.
Headlines should be two times larger than sub heading and bold.
Sub headings should be two points larger and bold.
If body text is 12, then sub headings 14 and headlines 28.
Sans serif has a modern image.
When you break the rules you lose 'readability'.
Watch out for emphasis - never use for more than 10 words.
TEXT IS MUCH HARDER TO READ IF IT IS ALL CAPS.
Italics and smaller font fatigues reader and they will not read the text.
Use serif for body text.
Times Roman - is most readable in body text
Arial - Women tend to like this font more than men.
Comic Sans Serif - friendly
Tecton - check this out.
Helvetica - use for headlines.
Palatino - elegant
Garamond - classically elegant
Sans serif fonts tend to be small
Write Roman numeral V, how do you convert this into Roman 6 with one stroke of
the pen? (VI)
Then IX, with one stroke of the pen convert this to 6. (SIX)
When do you feel stress free? Use this time to be creative. Make sure that you target a
date two days before the deadline for completion of important tasks.
Roger Vaughan Och has written a book about creativity:
"The Whack on the Side of the Head"
When designing start thinking about the important elements of the design - 'Z' layout?
Call to action, DingBats? Bullet points? Scholars margin, fonts.
Keep looking for innovative designs!
"How to write, design and edit
successful newsletters, brochures and
ads" course book.
"How to Create High-Impact Designs"
Jane K Cleland
"How to Create High-Impact
Newsletters" Jane K Cleland
Note the eye-catching "What is in it for
me. Then headline across top.
The unusual form of the (lower part) of
The tint for more weight and the action
J A Winlow 29/11/99