Select Page

Simple Communicates Faster.

One of the main goals of marketing and advertising is to quickly connect with a customer and communicate your value to them. Ultimately, facilitating a purchase. Complex visuals without hierarchy and long copy make that process cumbersome and questionable at best. This is referred to as visual clutter. Clutter creates visual chaos. Chaos leads to confusion — and a quick exit.

Visual clutter happens when your eyes don’t have a primary item to rest on. They’re constantly scanning, moving and taking in everything on the page. This visual chaos can cause inward anxiety and conflict because the eye and mind never rest (

One of the main purposes of graphic design in the sphere of branding and marketing is to improve the communicative performance of materials that are presented to potential and existing customers. The goal is to eliminate visual chaos. The easiest ways to improve the impact of your branding and messaging is to simplify and declutter.

  • Reduce clutter: get rid of everything that doesn’t support the headline.
  • Find similarities in shapes: curves with curves, angles with angles, straight lines with straight lines.
  • Limit the color palette: two to three colors that work well together.
  • Limit the number of typefaces: two to three at the most. One “family” is best.
  • Create visual hierarchy: decide what you want them to see first, second, third.
  • Make your message simple and clear: get straight to the point quickly.
  • Contrast is your friend: bold and bright.

Reduce Clutter

Reducing clutter is one of the first things to do and can have the biggest impact. Remove unneeded items that interfere with the ability of the viewer to see the headline or main message. Having fewer things to look at lets the viewer focus on the important things.

Find Similarities

Limiting your use of shapes, colors and fonts promotes cohesive meaning and understanding of your message. The more similar these elements are in your particular piece, the quicker the viewer sees everything as a group and derives meaning. This is based on the Gestalt principle of grouping or “Prägnanz”. The law of Prägnanz implies that, as individuals perceive the world, they eliminate complexity and unfamiliarity so they can observe reality in its most simplistic form. Eliminating extraneous stimuli helps the mind create meaning (

Establish Hierarchy

With the attention span of humans shrinking to that of a goldfish or less, you have a very limited time in which to make a compelling pitch to the person you’re trying to influence. Try to keep your message hierarchy, or the order in which you want the viewer to see/read your message, down to 1 – 2 – 3. That might be:

  1. Headline
  2. Subhead (pay off the headline)
  3. Call-to-action (click here, learn how, etc.)

This depends on the medium. If you have a captive audience like an inflight magazine or a display ad that doesn’t rotate you might get away with 1 – 2 – 3 – 4. But if it’s a billboard on a freeway you might only get 1 – 2, and they’re gone!

Clarity is Meaning
Make sure that your message is simple and easy to comprehend. Cute and clever is only good if it’s directly relevant to your audience and they quickly “get it”. If it takes them very long to understand what you’re trying to tell them they’ll quickly exit. Make sure your message is benefit based, or beneficial to your audience.

Visual Contrast
The human eye is attracted to contrasting elements — light versus dark colors, sharp focus versus blurry, rough versus smooth textures, large versus small shapes. These contrasts create visual interest and excitement. Your eyes are attracted to elements that are sharp and in focus. Light, bright colors come forward and dark colors visually recede. Be careful with textures. Texture can add confusing layers and slow the comprehension of your message. When using textures, keep their contrast low so they don’t visually interfere with your primary message.

bad ad good ad

A complex ad, and its simple version.


In the example ad provided, you can clearly see the improvement once the visual clutter has been reduced, contrast has been used effectively and a hierarchy has been established.

Overall, you want a simplistic, streamlined way to quickly grab your customers’ attention. Once you have their attention, you want them to answer your CTA. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions or need help working through your own process of decluttering your brand.