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Video & recap: Design hacks — How to create visuals when it’s not usually your job

Eye on design: How to create quick graphics that work

The foundation of good design begins with shape, order and emphasis.

That’s what students in Wednesday’s “Design Hacks: How to create visuals when you aren’t a designer” webinar took away, along with tricks and tools to help reporters, editors and other communicators with entry-level design. 

We’re sharing portions of the presentation, taught by the Journalism Institute’s senior director Beth Francesco. Today, we recap design foundations. 

Hierarchy + Emphasis

Good design hierarchy helps visually tell the viewer where to look first and then influences the order in which they take in information. Consider it as ranking the elements from most important to least important.

Proximity + Grouping

Grouping related elements organizes content and portrays relationships among elements, helping a reader easily digest the information. 


Aligning text or other visual elements provides order, balance and intention. 


Contrast creates a visual distinction between two elements (or sets of elements). Contrast is attractive to the eye, helps organize information, improves legibility, and creates interest within a design so not all your elements look the same.

Negative Space

Negative space is the “empty space” in a design that does not contain content. Using negative space effectively will give the elements in your design room to breathe and will help keep the focus on your “point of emphasis” or message. 


Using elements that have similar characteristics can create consistency within a design. This can be effective in creating an impactful dominant image made up of smaller, less impactful images (hierarchy).


Placing elements in a way that distributes the visual weight equally in the design and ensures the viewer’s eye easily moves from one element to the next. In the graphic shown, note that while there are two elements on the right, they are of equal size and weight to the single image on the left. 

For tools to get you started with design, watch the program or download the slideshow.

This program is one of an ongoing series of free conversations. Click here to see our upcoming programs, or to watch a recording of a previous event. Please contact Journalism Institute Executive Director Julie Moos with questions.

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