creating hierarchy by design

Enforcing Hierarchy To Create Clear Communications

Clear communication is consistently patterned with well-organized hierarchy of information and design.

Scott Huettel, assistant professor of psychology and behavioral science at Duke University analyzed research subjects' MRI brain patterns while presenting a randomized series of squares and circles and asked the test subjects to push one button when they saw a circle, and the other button when they saw a square. The study showed an interesting pattern. Huettel commented, "what this shows us is that the human brain really looks for structure in the world … We are set up to find patterns … [which] allows us to extract regularity from the world.

“If the brain is hard wired to perceive patterns then good communication will become better communication when ordered and patterned properly.”

Apophenia is a human tendency of perceiving patterns or connections in random or meaningless information. Pareidolia is the name for that same psychological phenomenon when involving an external stimulus (like an image or a sound); That is, where the mind perceives a familiar pattern where none actually exists. Common examples of this are objects in cloud formations, the "man in the moon", or hidden messages within recorded music played in reverse or lower-than-normal speeds.

If the brain is hard wired to perceive patterns then good communication will become better communication when ordered and patterned properly.

Hierarchy in design and messaging is about ordering and presenting information according to importance. The most important pieces of information become most prominent while supporting facts recede to a subordinate position; therefore the principal task of marketing communications is to create a consistent hierarchy of message, where elements are emphasized by significance and content is structured in a clear and predictable manner.

Three tips to help enforce hierarchy in design:

  1. Squint when reviewing materials. Purposely not focusing your vision will cause everything to be blurry and helps reveal the underlying hierarchy (or lack thereof). Instead of focusing in on the actual piece, your blurred vision will reveal blocks of content with very little specific detail. The goal is to ensure organization in a clear descending order of visual importance.
  2. Compensate for errors in hierarchy (Too many competitive elements at the same level or too few elements between the primary and auxiliary components) by making adjustments to harmonize or differentiate style; Key factors such as size, color, density and orientation can provide the necessary avenues for correction to properly organize information.
  3. Assigning numeric values by importance to the elements of your message will allow you to check the order of emphasis of your information, which will work to ensure the visual hierarchy of your final products, reflecting the order of your initial communication goal.

Communication Initiatives Should Navigate Complex Growth Challenges With Elegant And Engaging Solutions.

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