It’s important to understand the relationship between content and design. Content, whether good or bad, paves the way for design, and a graphic designer’s job is to understand and respond to the content given to them. They need to be able to see the patterns within the materials and find a way to create a bridge to the audience.

A while back, Patti Shank wrote a very good series on the four overarching principles of visual designcontrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity (CRAP). Beyond those principles, here are six more guidelines you should consider when creating your next design, whether it is for the small screen on a phone or tablet, a big screen on a desktop monitor, or a stand-alone image such as an infographic:

  • Hierarchy
  • Focal point
  • Simplicity
  • Balance
  • White space
  • Unity


Organization helps the users understand the priorities of the information and ideas you present to them. Bullets on a PowerPoint slide do that, but they’re boring and so old-fashioned (see the bullet list above). You can do much better than that! Create a hierarchy by arranging your content points from the most important to the least important. If everything is important, then nothing is important. Hierarchy determines movement through design. By guiding the eye through the information in a specific order, you make the content easier to scan and digest. In smaller screens, hierarchy may be more difficult to convey, as these screens can display only small portions of content at any given time. Taking a content-first approach in your organization will bring your designs closer to being mobile-friendly.

Ways to achieve hierarchy:

  • Organize the elements from the most important to the least important
  • Consider the placement, size, style, and order of the information on the screen
  • Use color, weight, and scale to help emphasize the important elements
  • Avoid having more than three levels of hierarchy in a single page, as it leads to confusion

Figure 1 illustrates all of these ways.