Lizzie Strasser December 22nd, 2021

7 Design Principles to Leverage in Your Advertising

Designing effective ads that attract attention can be tough in a crowded market where your target audience gets bombarded by millions of marketing messages every day.

To stand out, you need to show your unique value proposition and your brand in an eye-catching way.

Use proven strategies like design principles to direct the viewer’s eyes and ensure easy scannability. Your ads only get a glimpse from your audience before they decide whether they’re going to take a closer look. 

Simplicity is key but that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with colors, font styles, or composition. The end result should be an ad design that quickly reels in your customers and makes them want to take action.

Here are seven design principles to help you create more effective ads:

Structure Your Ad with Visual Hierarchy in Mind

When you first lay all elements of your ad out like the logo, copy, image, and a clear call to action, think about structure and composition. Make sure the most important elements of your ad design stand out first before the eyes of your target audience move on to the next element.

Keep the natural reading order in mind from top to bottom and left to right. The rule of thirds, which is commonly used in photography, is also a useful tool here. Divide your design into a grid of nine rectangles and place the elements you want to attract the most attention to in the central box or as close to the top left intersection as possible.

Depending on how you’re going to publish your ad, consider different arrangements as you adjust your display ads for different formats or blow up your ad for a billboard campaign. To create a successful visual hierarchy, remember to direct your audience’s eyes through your design and towards your call to action.

If you’re using photos of a person in your ads, a pro tip is to use the gaze of the model as viewers automatically follow it to where you want them to look.

Use Lines to Create Focus

Depending on the types of lines you’re using in your ad design, you can convey order, movement, or tension. Use straight lines to make your design look professional and neat, wavy lines to evoke motion, or zig-zag lines to create excitement.

Leading lines help direct the eyes towards the focal point in your design. These lines can be shapes or other graphic elements in your ad that lead your audience to look at the product you’re promoting.

Evoke Emotions with Color

Through the story you’re going to tell or the key message you want to get across, your ad provokes an emotional response. Color in your design is a big part of that, as it’s tied to and can be used to convey feelings.

Look into the psychology of colors to find out which fit best with the emotions you want your audience to feel when they look at your advertisement. Experiment with a mix of color aesthetics and backgrounds to see how they work together.

Color schemes are also crucial for branding your ads. Make sure you use the brand colors associated with your business to create easily recognizable creatives. This way your ads look professional and build trust.

Ensure Easy Readability with the Right Typeface

Flea market secretary typewriter Photo from PikWizard

An eye-catching ad also comes down to the copy that attracts interest but before the brain even starts reading the eyes notice the font size and style. Choosing a typeface that attracts attention to your copy is an important part of your ad design. To make your design more effective and avoid overwhelming viewers, never use more than two fonts.

Your number one criteria for choosing a font style should be readability. Ads need to be easily scannable to enable your customers to take in your message within seconds. If you’re using established brand fonts, create interest by playing with colors, size, and positioning when working on your design.

Make Your Ad Stand Out By Using Contrast

Contrast is a powerful design tool to make your ad stand out. Use it wisely to create space and differences between your graphic elements. This can range from using contrasting colors to playing with the weights and sizes of your chosen fonts.

Using contrast, you can create different meanings within your ad, define foreground and background, or help show the focus of your design. For example, one shape or image might be larger than the other and use more dominant colors to carry meaning or show the order of importance.

Apply Simplicity to Your Ad Design

Minimal desk minimalist room Photo from PikWizard

You only have a few seconds to capture attention with your ad, so it’s best to keep it simple rather than hit your audience with an overcrowded design. For example, your ad can be as simple as an image with text and a logo. 

There’s also no need for an elaborate product photoshoot when you can use eye-catching and royalty-free images. Just choose a photo that fits with your brand and helps convey the key message you want to get across with your advertisement. Apply your creative design skills and branding to make it your own. 

A simple ad design shows your unique value proposition and call to action clearly without any other distracting elements. Don’t try to get everything about your brand into one ad but narrow it down to a single purpose for your ad campaign that helps you to stay focused.

Create Balance By Controlling Space

Depending on the goal of your ad campaign, you have the options of crafting a balanced design to evoke harmony or an unbalanced design to create tension. To explore balance, experiment with various elements of your design like positioning, color compatibility, shapes, or white space.

Balance helps you find where your design might be too cluttered. If there’s too much going on, see how you can apply more white space to give other elements more room to breathe. Creating empty spaces might seem counterintuitive at first but if there are too many elements huddled together, it can cause confusion.


Although ad design should be simple, there’s plenty of room to experiment with different elements and use design principles to guide you. Visual hierarchy and lines help to create focus. Figure out which colors are best to use to evoke the right emotions for your ad campaign by referring back to color psychology.

Apply contrast to make elements of your ad and the entire creative stand out. Introduce white space to your design to keep it simple and make your ad easily scannable. Using these design principles helps you create more effective ads that guide your customers through your ad and towards your call to action.

Lizzie Strasser

Lizzie is a Content Writer at PikWizard and Design Wizard. She's been passionate about SEO and content marketing ever since a life-changing internship at a digital marketing agency while completing her BA in English and American Studies. Having graduated with a Professional Writing MA with distinction, Lizzie set out to gain her currently five years of copywriting and digital marketing experience in Cork City. An Austrian living in Ireland, Lizzie loves exploring Irish folklore and storytelling and weaving the wisdom of stories into her writing and life.

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