Effective visual communication relays information using a variety of different techniques. Besides integrating content with your design, it’s key that your design elements — including illustrations, icons or symbols, and typography — also work together to create seamless, easily digestible visualizations of data and ideas. By using design flow to guide a reader’s eye through a piece, your audience’s access and comprehension will become even more effortless, as they will know exactly where to look in order to receive the information in the most meaningful way.
Key Aspects of Design Flow
Design techniques that direct a viewer’s eye include perspective, emphasis, and direction (based on line, gesture, or color gradation). Clear visual cues can amplify the the outreach and impact of your work. Since the eye is the window into all of your great information, it’s important to create clear design. With expert design that makes the most of layout and technique, expert understanding will follow.
Our creative team works with all kinds of design in their work. This week, we stopped by the desk of Chris Munroe, Art Director, to see what he has to say about how design keeps moving.
Q: Design flow exists in all visual arts. Is there anything you look for in the flow of graphic design specifically?
A: For graphic design, there’s a lot of cool stuff happening with visual cues and illustration, which we implement a lot. Design flow could be as simple as being able to follow the direction a person is pointing or looking — both help to guide a reader. I also like to look at diagram and workflow infographics for those visuals that indicate “if yes, go here/if no, go there.” Along with stylized arrows, they can do some really interesting visual work.
Q: One key lesson in visual communication is that design layout and eye flow can change how information is interpreted. How does that impact your choices?
A: To be really effective with visual communication, you always want to establish a hierarchy — it needs to be really clear what I should look at first. No matter what, the most important element should stand out to me more than anything else. After seeing that key component of the design, it should be clear what the second-most and then third-most important areas are. Once I know what I need to establish, I work with size, contrast, and relative location in a composition. The visual cues shouldn’t be overwhelming — balance is needed here.
All of this is important because, for the viewer, finding that hierarchy is about making the most effective use of their time. If someone is pausing to look at a design, I want to make their time worth it. In some scenarios, you need to tell the whole story before the viewer walks away, and having a hierarchy helps establish that more quickly.
Q: When starting to design a new project, what do you need to consider to make an effective design?
A: There are a few things! You need to consider how much content there is and how much real estate you have to work with. From there, think about where design is going to be viewed (on a billboard? In the palm of your hand?). This matters because the overall impact won’t be as strong without considering this detail. In terms of flow, it’s important to know what the viewer is doing at the time they would see your design. For instance, on a billboard, you have to assume that it would be in someone’s view for a couple of seconds. Depending on your space confines, styles will have different levels of effectiveness.
Q: What does your revision process look like? How do you keep your design eye sharp?
A: In terms of my revision process, it’s always important to remind myself that I’m not designing for me but for the client and for their goals. I need to be open to critique from people who aren’t designers, and when I remember to humble myself and receive that information, the project will ultimately have more impact. Listening to my audience and respecting them — that’s important.
To help advance my designs, I study the things I find appealing to figure out why it catches my eye. I mean, there’s a science to why objects seem visually attractive to us. We’re surrounded by design: textures; walls; pillows, even — the feel of it all. I read blogs, too, to stay up to date or ahead of trends. Also, I never want to allow myself to become complacent with a certain medium, so if I find myself doing one thing for too long, I switch programs or learn a new technique, or I sit down with a pen and sketchpad to see where that takes me.
Q: What’s happening in current design flow that you’re interested in?
A: I feel like right now there are a lot of organic shapes, which can have their own kind of flow. I’ve been noticing bright, strong, heavy colors — that can be useful. If you have a mostly monochromatic composition and then incorporate a fluorescent blue, you’re going to notice it.
I’ve also been seeing more design flow in motion graphics: each frame has its own flow and transition. Movement from frame to frame lands the eyes on a specific spot, while transitions happen in the background. It creates some drama while a scene is being revealed. That’s not necessarily a new thing, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately.
There’s a lot of graphic design flow out there to look at. Has something captured your attention recently? Comment below or let us know here.
Check out the sources we consulted for this post: