DT&G Design Department
Current Location: Graphic-Design.com / DT&G Magazine / Design Department / Designing Headlines / Design is simple / Headlines compel the reader  
How to design headlines... from previous page

The process changes: Headlines to compel the reader

Now, I've upset the balance. I've made the headline much bigger, and changed the font. Whether you agree or not, I made the decision to change the type to a light serif style because I wanted it to dominate, but I didn't want it too heavy. I could have just as easily used a light version of the existing font. Alex and Ronnie might disagree, but I felt the elegance of Garamond would be more inviting to the female audience the ad is attempting to attract.

Do you still have that example open?
Now you should have paused slightly longer on the headline. Since I've created three horizontal bands across the ad, (The head, the white bar separating it from the car, and the car), this arrangement should have forced you to remain in the top of the ad just long enough to support the left-to-right motion, bringing you to the "I Will Not" headline. Did it work?

If it did, then the reader should now be making the decision whether or not to investigate what the pledge says they will not do. The reader might be more involved at this point. You see, by railroading the headline in the first example, the goal was to get the reader into the next logical flow of the message rather than being whisked to the bottom by the image. Did it succeed?

Upon opening the next example, carefully note your reactions:
? What do you see first?
? Where does your eye go next?
? This time is the eyeflow better?
? Did the message or the meaning change?
? Where did you arrive?
Open Example #3

Headlines help the reader

What happened? Now we've changed the posture and position of the headline -- and completely eliminated the white band that separated the head from the car. Did you read through it faster? Did the ascenders of the "g" act as a pointer to help you down into the content well?

Simplify, simplify, simplify Okay, so you didn't like that one. Well, I have to agree. (Little trick to see if you're still reading!)

Now let's ask ourselves what is NOT necessary and if we can simplify the headline to be simply more powerful -- and more compelling. The first question I'll ask is :
? What's the most important word?
? What do we want the reader to do?
? What word can be eliminated?

Good! You're getting the hang of it.

Upon opening the next example, let's see if you were right:
? What do you see first?
? Where does your eye go next?
? This time is the message more compelling?
? Did the message or the meaning change?
Open Example #4

Headlines push the reader

Sure! You got it right. The word "Mustang" was hindering our thrust into the message. We see the head, we see the car, but now there's a certain mystique in 'What kind of pledge?' -- hopefully now the reader's curiosity is a bit more compelled to find out what they're talking about. We are attempting to push the reader into the content well.

? Did the ascender 'g' NOW help a little more? (Since there's now only one.)
? Was the suspense heightened?
? Where did you go next? To the 'will not' or the 'i will' ... which brings us to a crucial turning point. You see, now we have to drop the bomb: is the headline necessary at all? (Clients won't like this one, but you have to be assertive!)

So let's give the reader another push, and see if we can more quickly get them into the meat and potatoes...

Open the next example and ask:
? What do you see first?
? Where does your eye go next?
? Did the message or the meaning change?
? Was the headline standing in the way?
Open Example #5

Headlines compel the reader

So now what do you think? Did your eye drop immediately to the "I Will Not... " -- which now has become one of only two headlines? Did we eliminate something that was, in reality, not necessary? Disagree? Agree? We'll wait to see what Alex and Ronnie have to say, but in my humble opinion, the ad is now actually better.

Go back to Open Example #1. Click on the ad and you will go to example 2, 3, and so forth. Use your browser's 'back' and 'forward' buttons to move through the examples.

Now ask which works best, least, or -- ask what did we overlook? (If we've overlooked something really important, let me know and I'll build it into this presentation, crediting you. However, remember what Alex says "It's got to be right"

What have we been doing?

This has been an exercise in both designing an ad, and word-smithing the headline in an attempt to make the ad more forceful, and compelling to the reader to actually find out what the opposing "I will not" and "I will" things are.

Which leads us to the next, and final step in the triad of Designing Headlines: the words themselves.

For this step, we turn to the well known expertise of Ronnie Lipton, author of "The Practical Guide to Information Design" with a quarter-century of experience in effective writing, editing and design...

Now, turn the page to Designer as Wordsmith


Return to the Design Department, or back to the Front Page


BECOME A FRIEND of THE DESIGN CENTER and DTG MAGAZINE --- If you have found benefit from the content found here, why not help by becoming a Friend of the Design Center? You'll be helping us continue our ten-year tradition of quality content on the web.
Ask how to get your button and link on the front page of the Design Center

Participate in your Design Center

Lots of fun and information for all... don't forget, any community is only as good as the participation of its members. We invite your tips, tricks, comments, suggestions and camaraderie.