What is layout? Simply put, it is organizing and arranging copy and other parts of a sign design.
And one of the most important principles in organizing a layout, perhaps the most important, is assigning an order of importance to all design elements.
Determine what the most important element is, and give it absolute priority. It must dominate the layout and no other part of the message can be allowed to compete with it graphically.
In his book Layout & Design for Calligraphers, Alan Furber states, “When two, three or more elements in your composition are equally prominent … the design is weakened as a consequence.”
Why is this so? The reason is so simple that it is not always obvious—we can’t read everything at once. So it is necessary to lead the viewer’s eye through a composition. We do this by emphasizing one element, giving it dominance, creating a focal point. Or to put it another way, we create an entry point into the composition. It’s where you want the viewer’s eye to land first. Then we can decide what is second most important. What is left becomes least important, graphically.
What happens if you do not create a dominant element in your layout? Then your viewers will be required to find their own entry point into the design. You will be forcing them to think, to work. Many will find it far easier to simply ignore the sign.
The necessity of creating dominance and a visual hierarchy in your sign compositions cannot be emphasized too much. Prioritization is often the least understood principle by novice designers, but without it a sign can be rendered virtually useless. On the other hand, with good prioritization, and a dominant focal point, a message gains eye appeal, and in today’s ocean of mediocre sign work, it effectively communicates.