What makes a great design?

What makes a great design?

Design. We see it every single day.

Throughout our day, we are exposed to over 5,000 ads. That’s a lot of information competing for our attention! How is your business going to stand out from the rest? There are a lot of factors but your design of your message is one of the most essential.

Great design will attract the viewer’s attention and keep it until your message is received. Try to create a lasting impression that will be remembered well after the design has been viewed. To achieve this, your message should be clear and easy to read and easily associated with your business. The design should set the appropriate mood and inspire the viewer to purchase your product or services, or engage with your call to action. From the initial design phases, great design addresses all of these elements with delivering results in mind. Kudzu Brand’s has a reputation of knowing the difference between good design and great design!

First, Create a Focal Point

The focal point is the design element that captivates the viewer’s attention. It piques their interest and makes them receptive to your message. Often, it the element of design that stands out and carries most of your message’s weight. If you don’t catch the viewers’ attention, then they won’t even see your ad!

The magazine ad below exemplifies this approach. What catches your eye first? The piece of jewelry, right? The depth of this design tricks the eye deftly and blurs the line between what is illustration and what is a three dimensional object.

Whether you’re communicating an idea, a promotion, information, or an emotion, your design is telling a story, so choose a focal point that will unite the elements of that narrative. Photography, graphic elements, headlines, and call-outs may all serve as focal points. However, if you use photography, make sure it supports the ad well. You may also play with scale, color, leading lines, texture, and shape to more expertly draw the viewer’s attention to your focal point.

The direct mail piece below uses the 10% discount as the focal point. The type’s leading lines in the copy beneath “10% OFF” draw your eye to this message. This is the goal and purpose of a direct mailer! The colorful bedding display adds depth, mood, and identity while occupying the background of the composition comfortably.

Visual Flow

Now that you’ve attracted the viewer’s attention, you need to keep it. Lay out the design in a way that will be easy to follow. They should navigate from your design’s focal point to its supporting elements easily, keeping them engaged. Organization is one of design’s most significant challenges. When designs are disorganized, the viewer’s eye doesn’t know where to look and their attention will be lost. A few tips to keep your designs engagingly organized are:


  • Visual Hierarchy enables the viewer to scan the information easily while communicating the message quickly. Not everything can be emphasized in a design – that defeats the whole purpose, really. Emphasis must be on the most important part. Visual hierarchy usually aligns with a design’s conceptual hierarchy.
  • Divide your design into clear sections. You can use headings, color, graphics, and bullet points to create clear distinctions.
  • Take advantage of white or negative space. Give your ad room to breathe. Don’t overwhelm the viewer’s eye with information overload and density. Using negative space is a great way to break up your design’s sections as well.
  • Create balance.


The example below employs all of these techniques. Its design is using scale, photography, shape, and color to lead the eye. The design is divided into sections and well organized with headlines and bullet points so it is easy to follow and read. On the bottom of the page, white space is used to lighten the composition while creating a sense of asymmetrical balance.


Typography is an essential, yet often overlooked, aspect of making your design attractive. Type can affect the mood or personality of your design. Fonts may be perceived as playful, elegant, retro, modern, or even cultural. Pick a font that will best represent the mood or message of the design. A good rule of thumb is to stick with only two or three fonts per design. You don’t want to overwhelm the viewer with fonts in excess. If you choose more than one font, but sure they complement each other well.

Make sure fonts are easy to read. Choose an appropriate font size for your design. Color and contrast can dramatically affect fonts’ readability. If colors of your font and background are too similar or clashing, your message may be difficult to read.

The direct mail campaign example below uses only three fonts. The script font adds emotion to the design. Headlines and calls to action are set in an expanded typeface so they are sure to stand out and grab viewer’s attention. The third font is a simple yet stylish sans serif font. It communicates the message’s important information in a manner that is easy to read and retained by viewers. All the fonts work well in harmony and support both the emotion and purpose of the overall design.


Color creates a subconscious connection with the viewer that communicates the mood or tone of your design. The human brain associates emotion, personal experiences, and specific objects with colors. The chart below may help you understand the way a color may represent the mood of your design.

Final High Quality Files

You’ve taken the time to compose a great looking design, and now it’s ready to be seen by the world! However, you must first understand what files will need to be exported correctly to be provided to their final recipient: the printer or publication who will finalize the design’s preparation. Digital ads and print ads are affected by a wide number of variables. If you don’t export and send the correct files, the end result of your design may be compromised and imperfect.

  • Color – Digital ads need to be in RGB while print ads need to be CMYK
  • Image size- Digital ads need to be 72 DPI while print ads need to be 300 DPI
  • Proper bleeds- Print ads will need bleeds if the design is to the edge of the paper. Make sure you are supplying enough bleed for the size of the medium. For example, a business card will only need .125” bleed but a large banner may need a .5” bleed.

Design is comprised of a broad number of factors but if you carefully considered what we’ve identified above, your design should have the appeal that will catch the viewer’s eye and deliver the message your ad is trying to communicate.