Whether you’re creating a PowerPoint Presentation for the board or an e-learning module for your peers, there are basic design principles you can use to make your content more effective, and easy to consume. Let’s look at some key ones:

Pay attention to the size and distance of elements.

Renowned psychologist Paul Fitts proposed a model of human movement, which is used in human–computer interaction and ergonomics. It states that “…the time to acquire a target is a function of the distance to and size of the target.”

In other words, when the distance between the user and the object increases, the time taken for its selection increases. When the size decreases, then, again the selection time increases. To use this in your work, all you need to keep in mind is that if you want to give the most importance to an element in your design, like a call-to-action button, keep it closest to the user’s interaction point and increase its size.

Avoid using elements with excessive movements.

While designing, we are all tempted to add animation or introduce a pop-up element. You might believe that this catches your reader’s attention and helps you drive the message home.

On the contrary, jarring customizations and quick movements only distract and stress the reader. Human beings are known to react primarily in two ways to stressful situations – flight or fight. And this sort of reaction completely defeats the purpose of highlighting a message. Imagine, a loud pop-up appears right now on your screen when you are reading this piece. Not very pleasing, is it? Instead, use smooth and seamless transitions – be it in the slides of your PPT or the landing page of your microsite.

Incomplete patterns are known to attract attention.

Years of research establishes the fact that humans are simply brilliant at pattern recognition. They see several things over time, and the brain builds the ability to recall, associate, and react to patterns. For instance, think of how we process traffic signals, or complete number sequences. Once you get familiar with a pattern, you simply tend to bypass it, as there’s nothing new for you to see or learn.

However, what happens when you come across a familiar pattern with a missing element in it? You won’t be able to stop yourself from taking a closer, second look to better process the visual. And this provides a great opportunity to introduce the message that you want your reader to pay heed to. Rest assured, the combination of an incomplete pattern and the message are going to leave a lasting impression.

You can apply these principles in PPTs, microsites, reports and proposals that you design in your daily work. Also, if there are any principles that you swear by, do share them with us.

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