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How to design headlines... continued from previous page -- with more than a little help from Alex White and Ronnie Lipton

design is simple

The above is yet another "Alexism". I like to quote Alex, because he's ultimately quotable in the graphic design field...

In our previous example, you may be thinking that the image played a bigger role in the design than the type. What made the "Think Small" ad so dynamic was the relationship between the three key ingredients, with the white space doing the real work.

As the image begins to dominate, the type begins to take a subordinate role, though it is still an essential part of the overall design. They must work together because the details of the message are delivered in the type. Making them become a unified message takes some degree of work -- a process.

Design is a process, not a result

Mustang ad Now, let's take a look at this ad which ran a few years later but achieved great success in the market place. Ford designers picked up on the relationships between the visual elements in the window of approach and once again kept the headlines tight and trim. Here, they didn't have to shout because the image was taking a more dominant role. Presented with such a design prospect, the designer must ask some careful questions.

Alex White said:

"eliminate clutter. Make things agree. Scrub away any arbitrary differences: they are too insignificant to mean anything to the reader."

Forty years ago, this ad got rave reviews and won awards because of its brave departure to carefully target the female market in the largely male dominated automotive arena. You'll notice they split the headline (or display type) into three gulps to tell a story -- or rather entice the reader into reading the two sides of a pledge.

The typography here was woven in and around the dominant image of the car above, and the lady forming a strong vertical axis leading to the logo and tag line. It's a strong design, but could it be crafted to be stronger?

Upon opening the next screen, let your eyes fall on the ad and carefully be aware of what your eyes do immediately upon entering the window of approach. This is the crucial moment in which the reader decides to continue reading or skip to the next page.
? What do you see first?
? Where does your eye go next?
Open Example #1

Most viewers will immediately see the picture, and make a decision. Which decision they make is completely the responsibility of the designer -- and where the next most visually important thing in the window appears.
? Did it succeed?

If you keep that window open, and move it to the side, let's look at some of the things that are right about the ad.

NOTERemember white space:
      Note how the "Will Not" and "I Will" heads are separated by a band of white in alignment with the lady's shoulders.
This both calls attention to them, and gives them a certain sense of importance without being bold. The designer didn't have to shout. The white space did the work for him.

NOTERemember Gravity:
      we know it is a natural tendency to read and take in a view from top to bottom... or down.
The photo of the lady is so strong it forces our eye to follow. The hand to the face making eye contact is so compelling, the eye is going to run right down the arm to the elbow, and I'd be willing to bet 99% of viewers will look at the caption and the logo -- even if they didn't read anything else in the ad.

But is that what the designer wanted? I'm a little worried about this because the reader is thrust to the closing by the sheer power of the implied "T" shape of the image. Is the typography and the message overwhelmed by the image?

Upon opening the next example, carefully note your reactions:
? What do you see first?
? Where does your eye go next?
? Is the eyeflow better?
? Did the message or the meaning change?
Open Example #2

Remember what Alex said:

There is a huge difference between nothing wrong and nothing right. Being able to identify what is right about one's work is crucial to organizing material for clarity." (another Alexism)

Next: Design Headlines to compel the reader


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