How to Use Design to Direct the Eye

How to use design to direct the eye
Anthony Tripi - Graphic DesignerWritten by: Anthony TripiGraphic Designer

Ever wonder what makes you drawn to walk a certain path or focus on an area of the page first? Whether talking about architectural, fashion, print, or online, there’s a purpose behind the layout and structure of every good design. It’s considered essential for success.    

 So what IS that purpose?


As any middle child will tell you, attention is everything. She might cry for attention, then point to the boo-boo on her knee. Good design works much the same way. First the designer must completely understand the objective and the customer, then find the best way to grab their interest, then direct it toward the objective. A dominant visual presence drives our eyes or even our bodies to a predetermined place. The strength and finesse of this element can make or break the design’s hierarchy. There must be a start, a middle, and an end point to grab the viewer and direct them to the destination. In web development, we call it a sales funnel. Without logical direction, the result is confusion which makes for ineffective, BAD DESIGN.

Techniques for Guiding the Eye

1)       Position — The most dominant element of design almost always comes first. Let’s use a website as an example. There are good reasons for a company’s logo and navigation to be at the top or left side of the page. It’s easy to find because people are used to looking for it there. It also tells them what site they’re on and how to get to where they need to go. Without that sort of hierarchy, it would cause confusion and visitors browsing aimlessly, or worse…they’ll just LEAVE. That alone will cause you to lose potential customers, and no one wants that.

2)       Emphasis — When multiple elements (or no elements) attempt to stand out in a design, it results in a rather boring or cluttered looking mess with no direction. It is unclear what the viewer is to do, or take away, from the design. A primary visual of interest should stand out at first glance. Supplementary information should follow shortly after with the take away action being last. Remember this… everything cannot be “most important.” If you try to make it that way, then nothing becomes important. Varying levels of importance is a design necessity for success.

3)       Movement — Look at the main picture of this post. Right away the wavy orientation of the tile and overhead design direct you along a path. A print or web design layout can work in a similar way. Lines, shapes, and textures utilized correctly direct the viewer’s eyes to the message you want them to see. It creates a visual rhythm. Think if you saw an arrow or a line pointing at something, you’d automatically look or go that direction depending on the scenario.

4)       Pictures — They’re worth a thousand words! A good, relevant photo in a design is an easy way to grab a reader’s attention. It can also work as a visual cue. A photo of someone looking in a certain direction is a trigger for us to do the same. Take a brochure or poster for example. If we saw a person’s face looking up at the top left corner, we’d follow that cue. In turn, that corner becomes an ideal spot to emphasize the main message of the design piece.

5)       Visual Cues   — Since I just touched on the subject of cues, let me explain further. In graphic design, a cue is a visual element whose purpose is to immediately direct the viewer to somewhere else. Think of it as a shortcut to your message. Shapes, colors, captions, and sizes are a few examples of commonly used, visual cues. When executed properly, the viewer’s attention is grabbed and he is led to the primary message, which is clearly understood.

When executed properly, GOOD DESIGN is seemingly simple, effortless, and leaves no uncertainty for what is expected of the viewer.

Hopefully you pulled something useful from this post, and understand that there is solid rationale behind every design decision we make. Is there a message you want delivered to potential customers or an action you’d like them to take? At Avenue 25, we fully understand the best ways to reach your audience and use our design expertise to do so. Please feel free to reach out to us and we’d be happy to help you enhance your business.