So you have a clever concept, a distinct visual style, but how do you really make sure that your design grabs attention?

Again, sadly there is no miracle formula to creating an impactful, eye-catching design, but there are tried and tested techniques you can employ to increase your chances of stopping people in their tracks.

Here are a few actionable design tips and techniques that are guaranteed to give your project the attention it deserves.

Simplicity & Focal Points

A beginner’s mistake to capturing attention is to overload your design with excessive graphics, type, and colors. But, while this might work in some cases, oftentimes it just makes for an overly complicated design that is harder to read thanks to the high number of focal points battling for top priority.

So, keep your focal points to a minimum. Find what you want to draw attention to the most and orient your design around that. Have a lot of type on your poster but want the attention to be on the ‘Free Entry’ copy? Make that piece larger, bolder, colored differently to the rest.

In short, keep it simple, keep it clean, and keep it to-the-point.

Duolingo is a master of keeping things simple but eye-catching. They use social media graphics to promote new languages available on the app by using a simple graphic and minimal type to create simple but effective designs.

Compelling Headline

You might not always have creative control over your copy, but if you do, try to tailor it in a way that allows for you to capture attention. Try to think of words, phrases, and terms that would appeal to your consumers and push those forward.

For example, in this poster by Ian Jepson, a very compelling headline of “All Gigs Free” has been used to appeal to the younger target demographic. The promotion of the ‘free gigs’ is one that definitely catches the right eyes.

Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is a crucial element in design, and an even more important one when it comes to grabbing people’s attention.

So, you want to grab attention, but what do you want to draw that attention to? A specific piece of type? A stunning image? Whatever the case, choose it and boost it.

Experiment

By experimenting with your concept and execution and being a little left of centre with your approach to a brief, you can surprise your audience, grabbing their attention in a big way.

Check out this poster from Matheus Mendes that creates a jarring effect that pulls you into the design. By using an arresting image of a heart and overlaid hand type, this poster is one that managed to grab attention and hold it.

Matheus Mendes

Try to think of a jarring or unexpected way for you to visually present your message. It doesn’t have to be gruesome, controversial, or overly risky, just experiment with outlandish concepts until you find one that clicks.

Contrast

Contrast can refer to the degree of difference between two elements, be that color, shapes, lines, etc. By amping up the contrast in your design, you can make different lines of type stand out from the rest, certain elements pop out above others, etc.

Lyft does this with their social media graphics by contrasting a vibrant splash of magenta against a sleek black photograph and white type. This contrast in hues is a surefire way to attract attention.

Leading Lines

All designs are made up of lines, these lines run through our graphics, and type and they help guide our eye around a design. Pay attention to these lines. When you first view your design, where does your eye go first, and where is it lead from there?

Maybe your eye is immediately drawn to the title in the top left, and then zig-zags down the page, or maybe it does a full circle. Orient your elements in a way that creates leading lines to help guide the eye through your design.

Whitespace

Whitespace is the magical tool in design that helps clarify, organise, and give a stylish boost to your designs. Use whitespace liberally to draw attention toward elements, and create a stylish effect.

These social media graphics from Skillcrush employ a liberal use of whitespace to make for clean, stylish graphics that refocus the eye on the content at hand.

Communicate Visually

Are you trying to communicate an idea, fact, figure, or concept? Do it visually. Generally speaking, visuals tend to grab our attention faster and more consistently than numbers, or plain copy.

Try to find a way to capture your message or data visually, just as Oxfam manage to do with their social media graphics. By presenting the data with visual cues and representations, the graphic is made much more attention-grabbing.

Oxfam America
Oxfam America

Play with your medium

Experimenting and playing with your medium is a fantastic way to draw attention to your design, and a common way that this can be done is by using GIFs. Now supported on just about every social media platform in some capacity, GIFs can add life and character to your designs and grab a lot of attention with just a little animation. Check out these social media GIFs from Look Human.

Utilize Calls to Action

One of the oldest (and most effective) tricks in the book is the call to action. A clever piece of copy written, designed, and positioned with the intention of inciting action in readers. This technique is used more for marketers and business-minded designs that are promoting an event, product or idea

Calls to action can range from the simple (and arguably overused) “Buy now!” through to more customised, creative phrases. However simple or complex you choose to go with your CTA, let’s run through some tips for reaping the most benefit out of your calls.

Use verbs

Verbs are the foundation of calls to action. You need to guide your audience by telling them what they should be doing. Whether it’s “subscribe”, “click here”, “find out more”, or anything in between, start with a single, strong verb.

Channel emotion and desire

Get into your audience’s head. What do they want from you, and what are you offering? For example, do they want you to help them plan the cheapest vacation, the most luxurious vacation, or the most easily-booked vacation? Choose one core desire/need of your consumers and structure your CTA in a way that offers to solve it for them.

Capitalise on FOMO

FOMO, also known as ‘fear of missing out’, is a powerful emotion to capture. Present whatever you’re offering as limited time only to encourage people to act now. Use phrases like “Sale ends this Friday” or “Exclusive offer” to make the most of the FOMO feeling.

Keep it easy

Make your call direct, simple, and easily achievable. Don’t ask too much of your audience, the goal is to offer something amazing for minimal effort on their part. For example, “Click here to start planning your dream vacation” offers a big pay off with a very simple action, making it much more actionable and encouraging to follow. Today’s Task. There’s no one universal piece of advice that can be imparted to ensure that all your designs will pack a punch except for “try everything”. So, today’s task is to take your work in progress design and try to beef it up a little with the tips and tricks discussed here.

Have a go at writing yourself a compelling call to action for your current project. Get really creative with it and try to incorporate it into your design. Whether or not it is usable, the process of writing a piece of persuasive copy will help you refocus on the goal of your communication.

Also have a go at using the design techniques listed on your work in progress design. Bump up the contrast in your palette, or use an unexpected medium or method of delivery like a GIF. Shake up your design and experiment with it, do something unusual and find a unique angle to hone in on.

Share your results down in the comments below along with any other tips you have to capturing peoples’ attention with your designs. Have you ever created something that has made people stand up and take notice? Feel free to discuss below!

Now Get Your Design Out There

Nobody knows what makes people stop in their tracks and take notice of one design over the other, simply because what attracts one person may deter another. This is why creating an eye-catching design can be tricky business a lot of the time.

The true key to creating a successfully attention-grabbing design is awareness – of your audience, competition, and brief. Keep a close eye on what works for others, what has worked for you in the past, and what the audience is demanding and craving.

In between this field research, applying simple design techniques like contrast, whitespace, etc. can help boost the wow-factor of your designs. Top it off with a punchy call to action and you have yourself the makings of a winning design.

Still not sure if your design is capturing the right kinds of attention? Test it out, ask opinions, and make adjustments where necessary.