Before this gets along too far – I am not referring to hierarchy in terms of power within human organizations. Rather, I am covering the natural phenomenon of sorting and displaying objects based on their size (be it physical or symbolic).
Example: the text of this article! It starts with the title ‘Design Elements For Everyday Life’ and then some detail on the author, date of publication, and a short summary. The title is the main information here, as it gives both a quick description to the content and a unique identifier of the article to differentiate it from other articles.
The body of the article then follows with headings and paragraphs so that a reader can skim through the text for portions that are most relevant to them.
If you are composing a flier, keep in mind that things that are physically larger have a greater presence than something smaller, things that have more vibrant color draw attention more than things that are muted, and shapes that are irregular are more noticeable when presented among elementary shapes. Sure, exceptions apply, but you can harness the concept of hierarchy to analyze your layout then diagnose what elements can be adjusted to make them more or less distinct.
Accentuate the Awkward
A while back, Dana’s dad came to me with a problem. He has been fixing up a 1979 Pontiac, finding spare parts in this or that junk yard – enjoying the experience of restoring the car to its former glory. The exterior paint is candy red offset with white and silver accents, while the interior is black vinyl and carpet with the same accents – nothing wacky, very classic. The issue he was having was how to get two pieces of interior covering that butted up to each other to blend well together.
My recommendation: rather than disguise the joint, find a piece of candy red, or possibly white or silver, trim that could be used to run down the seam.
Part of being a designer is that you are dealing with essential information and elements – on a paper there is no where to hide things, otherwise that thing would be non-essential and would need culling. Therefore, if you have that one thing that must be included, but you just don’t know how to make it cohesive with the other items – then set aside the expectation that it should be perfectly integrated and accentuate it so it owns the attention it will receive.
On occasion you will have a bit of freedom to use the entirety of the color spectrum in your presentation or flier. Sure, you may use a template with pre-selected colors, but what if you want to customize it? I’ll spare you the color theory and point you straight away to some helpful resources.
This one is very easy – just browse from a bottomless supply of user-submitted palettes: colorhunt.co One of them is bound to spark an idea.
This little technique is one of my favorites: use a photo from your collection and pull colors directly from it. This online tool does just that by determining which colors are most dominant: colorkitty.com
To use the palettes you get from either of these resources you will need to determine where and how to apply the colors and to which elements. When in doubt keep the background light and minimal. Then use 3 or 4 of the colors (5 or more gets to be a bit much). You make the rules – so if you want your headline text to be green, make it consistent across all pages or slides because too much inconsistency puts a load on the viewer as they need to reorient their visual cortex.
Go on and create!