What Is Visual Hierarchy and How Does it Affect Presentations?

Visual Hierarchy for Presentations

Apr 11, 2022

In website building, advertisements, as well as corporate presentations, the arrangement of information is almost as important as the content itself. In many cases, the visual hierarchy of something like a landing page or a PowerPoint presentation will determine how your audience engages with the material presented to them. Deviate too far from the rules of visual hierarchy, and chances are you’ll have a hard time keeping people interested. Read on to learn more about the basic principles of visual hierarchy, how it works, and why employing these design principles can help you create more impactful presentations.

What Is Visual Hierarchy?

Visual hierarchy deals with carefully arranging information in a way that improves its appeal and delivery. When it comes to presentations, visual hierarchy can help to highlight what the audience should focus on first by giving certain design elements prominence over others. Visual hierarchy can drastically improve the impact of a presentation by configuring various elements like graphics, font size, color schemes, and spacing to create an experience that naturally carries viewers from start to finish. Without considering visual hierarchy in the design process, presentations can easily become cluttered or disorganized, making it difficult for the audience to determine what to look at first or how to properly digest the information presented to them.

Visual Information and How It's Processed

When designing a presentation, it’s essential to consider how the audience will process the information you’re conveying. Most people will naturally gravitate to the top of a slide to orient themselves and then proceed down the slide from left to right to review the remaining content. Depending on how you structure your text and graphics, people will either process visual information in a Z or F pattern.

Z Patterns

With a Z pattern, people scan information from the top left of the screen to the right before shifting diagonally to the bottom of the page. From there, the human eye takes in the visual data from left to right again. This type of viewing pattern is ideal for presentations that contain many graphs or still images and fewer blocks of text.

F Patterns 

For slides in a presentation that contain a great deal of written information, people tend to follow an F pattern from the top left of the slide to the right. This pattern continues until viewers reach the bottom of the page. Conveying information in this configuration makes the text easier to follow and helps ensure the viewer's attention doesn’t wander from place to place.

Visual Hierarchy Principles and Their Effect In Presentations

When using various principles of visual hierarchy in design, it’s much easier to create compelling presentations that have a lasting impact on the audience. Everything from the color schemes you use to the amount of negative space in between text can drastically alter the way people absorb information, so it’s critical to understand how different aspects of visual hierarchy can enhance or diminish the delivery of your presentation. Here are the five most important principles of visual hierarchy to bear in mind when crafting a presentation.

White Space

Including areas of negative space separating blocks of text or images can help to organize information for your audience. These invisible boundaries can highlight key takeaways in your presentation or encourage viewers to focus on one section at a time. On the other hand, you can use less white space when you'd like to prominently display different elements on the same slide that share a common thread.

Typographic Hierarchy

Another vital aspect of visual design is typographic hierarchy, or the selection and placement of different fonts to help frame the presentation. To illustrate this, consider the layout of a newspaper article. To make the content easier to digest, writers will create a catchy headline in a larger text followed by a brief subtitle that further details the overarching theme of the article. In addition, you’ll likely encounter highlighted quotations of pivotal points throughout the writing. The slides in your presentation should also follow a typographic hierarchy to break down complex ideas into a more structured framework.

Color Combinations

Artists have long relied on contrasting or complementary colors to guide the attention of viewers across landscape or portrait formats. In presentations, the types of colors you select can work in much the same way to create a more engaging and appealing experience for the audience. For example, consider using bright red text to draw attention to your presentation’s main points or use a colorful infographic to serve as a centerpiece to a slide full of black text.

Alignment on Screen

The human brain appreciates symmetry, so creating slides with consistent balance and alignment between them can make your presentation much more attractive. As a general rule of thumb, the margins of text should be aligned to the left while images often look better when aligned on the right side of the page. For slides that contain both text and images, consider centering the content on the page so that there are equal margins on each side.

Size of Design Elements

Larger graphics or lines of text demand more attention than surrounding content, so be sure to adjust the size of various design elements to create focal points for your audience. After all, not every slide in your presentation will carry the same weight and importance. Whenever touching upon especially crucial concepts, be sure to make it clear by enlarging images or relevant sentences that you don’t want the audience to miss.

How to Utilize These Visual Elements in Presentation Design

Learning how to incorporate these visual hierarchy elements into your presentations can take time and effort, but utilizing just a few of these design concepts can make a huge difference in your delivery. To get started, try creating two different versions of the same presentation and ask a colleague or friend for their thoughts. If you’re still having trouble using visual hierarchy in your presentations, our team at GhostRanch can help. We excel at designing completely customized presentations for our clients that will keep your audience engaged from start to finish. We’ll even take care of creating custom illustrations for your slides to make your presentation truly stand out.

Reach out to our team today to learn more.

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