What Is Visual Hierarchy, and Why Should My Presentation Have It?

You have a presentation coming up, you want to make sure your audience takes important information from your slides, but you’re not sure how to format your presentation.

You can hope that people pay attention to what you’ve painstakingly prepared, or you can employ a visual hierarchy to make sure that each slide has an impact. How? Let’s find out.

Breaking Down Visual Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is a design principle used by professionals to arrange elements of a design according to principles like size, color, contrast, alignment, repetition, and proximity. You or a professional PowerPoint designer can use these elements in your next presentation design to subtly highlight important facts and effortlessly direct the audience’s eyes towards what you want them to see.

Why Is Visual Hierarchy Important?

​​A strong visual hierarchy leads your audience’s attention to where you want, and you can highlight bits of information that you deem to be most essential. A lot will depend on who your target audience is, but you can count on visual hierarchy to take advantage of two innate human traits:

  • When people look at any written communication, in this case, your presentation slides, they react fast. Human eyes decide within a few milliseconds whether what they’re looking at is worth their time or not. You can use visual hierarchy to make sure that you capture their attention.
  • Users’ eyes follow a culturally influenced reading pattern. Westerners who read left to right follow an F and a Z pattern. You can use this to lead your audience where you want them to look or create focal points to highlight the most critical points in your presentation.

Presentation Tips Using Visual Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy can make your presentation more effective and hold your audience by using certain design elements to your advantage.

Use Typography

The right kind of typography, or the art of arranging letters, and text can give your presentation the impact it needs. Remember to use large and heavy texts to draw attention and use smaller texts for supporting information.

Ideally, you would use two to three levels of typography per slide. A title will make up your largest level, with body text taking the size down, and captions or a footer rounding out your smallest level. Varying text size gives dimension to your slides, establishing a foreground, middle ground, and background using only text.

Use White Space

When you first design your presentation, it might be tempting to use all the space available to fit in every detail you think might be important. Remember that blank space is just as important as the space you fill with words or images.

You can use white space to group elements together, or you can separate elements to give them more of an impact. Giving information some breathing room helps distinguish it from other content and makes it more attractive to the viewer’s eye.

Use Different Shades and Intensities

Colors are a fantastic way to draw attention to your presentation. Bright colors immediately attract the eye, and you can use them to highlight certain aspects of your slides. Especially when accompanied by duller hues and shades, vibrant colors will draw the eye.

Try Proximity

Establishing importance doesn’t have to be so obvious. It can be as simple as intentionally placing elements next to or far from each other: things that are related should be close, and things that aren’t related should be far.

Proximity helps you delve deeper into your topic in an organized manner without spelling it out for your audience. It’s similar to how a TV dinner is set up: if there are multiple items in one compartment, you know that they go together. Things found in separate slots are meant to be eaten separately. The same goes for the way your audience will take in visual information.

The Rule of Odds

Create a focal point by using the rule of odds, or emphasizing a design element by putting it in the group’s center. You then place an equal number of neighboring objects on either side, creating an odd-numbered group. This kind of layout shows your audience that this center object if the most important

Creating an Immersive Experience

A beautifully crafted PowerPoint presentation created by someone with a solid knowledge of visual hierarchy is sure to create an immersive experience and captivate your audience from start to finish.

At Kristian Olson Art & Design, I personally design or oversee every aspect of your presentation. I have over 20 years of experience helping clients in a variety of industries deliver carefully crafted professional presentations. Get in touch with me today to find out how I can elevate your next presentation!

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