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How to Use Visual Hierarchy for Clearer Marketing Materials

A light orange background and 4 bars of different colors and length forming a pyramid

Visual hierarchy sounds complicated, but it’s not.

It refers to the idea that information on a page should have a clear sense of order. That order is imposed by you, the person who’s designing the page.

Why your reader needs to see visual hierarchy

When your reader first encounters your page of information, their initial impulse is to ask “Where do I start?”

You can make this clear by establishing the most important item on the page through design. It might be an image, a headline or a coupon. Whatever it is, make it larger, bolder and brighter than the rest of the page.

After that, their eyes will move around the page seeking what to look at next. Make it obvious by using the next-most-important image or text a little smaller. It shouldn’t call as much attention to itself as the main text or image.

Here’s an example of poor visual hierarchy. You aren’t sure what you should look at first! This ad is hard to read, right?

image showing poor visual hierarchy in an ad

And finally, most pages have some necessary-but-not-crucial text or images. These may be disclaimers, footer text on a web page, or a map to an event.

These items should be smallest of all. You don’t want them to compete with your main image/text or your secondary image/text.

Here’s an example of good visual hierarchy. Your eye is led around the image, and you can take in most of the information at a glance.

good visual hierarchy

When your page uses clear visual hierarchy, your information will be absorbed in the order in which you intended, and your reader will find it easy to understand.

Practice information discrimination

Get into the habit of stepping back and classifying your information before you start setting it up on your pages. Visual hierarchy may not come naturally at first, but the more you practice it, the easier it will be to use.

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Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson is the Chief Marketing Officer at DCS. She’s the creator of the Offer Accelerator Program. Learn more about Pamela’s content marketing books, and read reviews of the tools used to run this site.
Pamela Wilson coaches people in midlife to build profitable online businesses
I’m Pamela Wilson

In 2010, at the age of 45, I started this site and grew it into a business that offers freedom, flexibility — and consistent revenue.

11 thoughts on “How to Use Visual Hierarchy for Clearer Marketing Materials”

  1. I’m a fellow graphic designer, just signed up for your blog, good stuff! My clients always seem to have a hard time with hierarchy: they want EVERYTHING to be important. But, as the saying goes, if everything’s important than nothing is. Thanks for posting! 🙂

  2. Hi Pamela,
    I agree that visual hierarchy is very important when it comes to design. However, I am kind of surprised that in this example, you mention that the “Lowest Price” is the highest in the visual hierachy. Shouldn’t the product name/product image be 1st? People would need to know what you are selling first before they care about the price, right?

    • Thanks for your comment, Peter. I see what you’re saying.

      In this example, the image does the talking to let people know what’s on sale. And since the product is mentioned directly below the largest type on the ad, I think it works.

      You could certainly lead with the product name, but it’s not as compelling as a limited-time low price.

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