16 February 2015

3 Tips For Achieving Unity In Your Design

“The whole must be greater than the sum of its parts.” If a design respects this rule, then it’s unified. 

The principle of unity is one of the most important design principles. A design is unified when all the elements work together to support the design as a whole. It is unified when the elements don’t compete with each other, but rather support each other towards the common goal of communicating a message. The elements of a design should look like they belong together, rather than being arbitrarily placed on a page, slide, website, etc.   

Why is unity important?

The principle of unity is important for two reasons:
  • People naturally look for a connection between elements. They see the whole first and then the sum of its parts.
  • The goal of a design is to communicate a single message. [Tweet this] The more your elements are unified, the more the viewer will perceive your message as a single message.
You can achieve unity by paying attention to your choices of images, colours and style. Here are three tips to create a unified presentation (these principles are also valid for documents, websites, leaflets, you name it).

(1) Use the same font

Better yet, use the same professional font. Calibri is not a professional font. Helvetica is a professional font. You could use two (at most three) fonts as long as there is a reason for it. If there is no reason, then stick to one font only. In the presentation below I used two fonts: Gotham and Over the Rainbow. The former as the main font and the latter to give some additional comments a “human” touch. The reason for a second font was that I wanted to distinguish the main content from the comments. 

(2) Give the same tone to images  

This presentation by Ethos3 is a perfect example of consistency in the use of imagery. As you can see, the designer applied the same greenish effect to each image.  

Extra tip: to achieve a similar effect in PowerPoint or Keynote you can simply place a coloured rectangle above each of your images and increase the transparency. It won’t be exactly the same effect as in the above deck, yet it’ll make your images look like they belong together. In the before-after slides below, you can see the original images on the left and the same images with a transparent blue shape placed above them on the right.     

(3) Create a colour pallet

Even better, derive a colour pallet from an image that best represents your message. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be a professional designer to do this. Last year I wrote a super easy step-by-step guide on how to derive a colour pallet from an image and use it throughout a presentation. 
For every element you use in your design, ask yourself why. Why did I choose that font? Why did I choose three fonts? Why did I use this colour rather than that colour? Asking yourself why is the first step to achieving unity.
Ideally, the relationship between the elements of your design should be so well defined that whatever you change would make your design worse.

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