There were so many tiny flowers blooming along the paths – early blue violet, American vetch, golden-bean, late yellow locoweed, and prairie onion (slideshow below). There were baby ducklings on the river, and five deer were startled but curious about my presence. And, completely unexpected, I found a small patch of morel mushrooms when I bent down to take a photograph.
As I observed the river’s gentle, circular currents, I thought about how business writing is so often forced to be loud and showy in order to catch the attention of busy people. But what if we want to create a document or website that still captures people’s attention but encourages them to slow down and look and think?
Here are some tools that I think would slow the reader down so that they spend time with the material. I would be interested to know what has worked for you.
• Leave lots of white space.
• Have several minor focus points distributed across the page rather than one central focus.
• Use calming colours and graphics.
• Partial images – a face in silhouette, a deer only partially visible through the trees – will invite viewers to stop and look more closely.
• Use visual elements to quietly direct the readers’ attention from one spot to another (e.g. a person in one image is looking at a section of text).
• Create balance and harmony between the different elements on the page.
• Use curiosity and surprise to attract attention. For example, the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins combines words in evocative, imaginative ways: “Praise be to God for dappled things - / For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow; / For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;”
I am a great admirer of Garr Reynolds. His most recent book, Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations, discusses Japanese aesthetic principles as well as Gestalt – valuable ideas for creating harmony and simplicity in our communication.
See also: Avoiding Visual Clutter
Writing with Harmony and Balance
|Spring on the Prairies|