Text-only cheat sheet:

In a poorly designed layout, the viewer doesn’t know where to look. If all of the elements on the page are treated the same, then the layout lacks organization. To fix this, and to strengthen your design, you need to create visual hierarchy within your layout.


Group elements that relate to each other closer together, and add distance between other grouped elements that do not relate. Correctly breaking the layout into groups and subgroups ensures that the flow of the piece looks natural and organized.

Spacing elements evenly throughout the design is another way to polish your work. The Alignment tool in InDesign has a Distribute Spacing option where you can set the specific distance you want to apply between elements.

Balance and White Space
A well-balanced design feels stable and looks polished. Keep an eye on your white space: if there is there too much white space in one area and another area looks cramped, redistribute your elements so that there is balance.

Lining up elements creates order, stabilizes the layout and makes individual elements easier to identify. Create a grid to help with the placement of objects and to ensure everything is lined up.

InDesign Tip: If you’re pressed for time and don’t want to create a grid, use InDesign’s Align tool to line up your elements quickly.

Tie together similar elements by creating association and consistency. Repeating the same treatments on similar elements communicates that these elements are at the same level in the hierarchy.

Making elements vastly different from each other is an easy way to establish a focal point; in doing so, you add variety to your layout which creates movement. The key is to have enough contrast in your piece to create a focal point, but if you go overboard, it’ll look chaotic. Here’s a tip: break your content down into three levels.

Ways to achieve contrast: difference in size, color, and weight, number of columns, typeface and placement are all easy ways to create contrast.

Typography Tip: When picking out typefaces, chose two fonts with large families; you can use the different styles to create LOTS of contrast within your type while having your layout look cohesive.


Break Content into three levels:

Level One: this is the most important content, it should be immediately visible.

Level Two: these elements are not as prominent as level one elements, but are visible enough to help establish a clear direction. For example,­­ if level one is a headline, level two could be a subhead.

Level Three: for a layout with a lot of text, level three is usually body copy, captions or other supporting content. Level three needs to be legible but can be significantly smaller than level one elements.  



  • Does the grouping of information make sense?

  • Is everything spaced consistently?

  • Are elements aligned properly?

  • Is there awkward white space or could elements be distributed better?

  • Is everything lined up on an invisible grid?

  • Are similar elements treated consistently?

  • Is there a clear focal point?

  • Is there enough contrast between text elements or could it be pushed further?

  • Is there enough contrast between graphic elements or could it be pushed further?

  • Does the layout look organized and dynamic?