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Our world of words.

Putting design under the microscope

Good design helps you to create intelligent and visually stunning pieces of communication that will engage your audience, but who are the revolutionaries behind the tricks of the trade and what impact do they have? Here at 44, we decided to delve a little deeper…

Digital creatives out there will be aware of several tricks of the trade that help you to deliver results. Some are used for aesthetic purposes, while others help to guide the reader through the copy.

But then we began to wonder…

Where did these design features come from? And what difference do they make?

Here are our top five design features to get you thinking…


1. The drop capital

They look good, but those giant letters in the top-left of our stories also come in handy for readability – something that advertising copy writers have known for years.

In 1455, an enterprising German named Johannes Gutenberg created the Gutenberg Bible (pictured right), the first ever book to be produced with moveable type in the western world.

He left gaps in the print and employed scribes to paint each initial character of every new chapter by hand.

It was a meticulous process as the famous bible contained more than 1,200 pages.

Taking a leaf out of his gilded book, top UK ad exec David Ogilvy once remarked that “the drop capital increases readership of body copy by 13%”, while copywriting expert Maria Veloso once revealed that putting a drop cap on one of her websites contributed to a staggering 251% increase in sales.


2. The centre of visual impact

Cuban design guru Mario Garcia has worked on more than 570 publications during a career spanning more than 40 years – a body of work that has underlined the importance of the CVI (centre of visual impact).

He reckoned that every page you design must have a clear focal point (pictured left); a dominant feature to immediately attract the reader’s eye before they explore the page’s other elements.

The CVI can be anything from a striking image or illustration to a bold headline, so long as it’s three to five times larger than anything else. In this way, the reader is drawn to the most important item on the page first and will therefore be more likely to read on.

Garcia also argues that front pages aren’t to be ‘studied’. They are to be ‘reacted to’. The amount of time readers give to page one before casting judgement nowadays is shorter than ever, which makes a strong CVI crucial if the publication is to pass the modern ‘coffee table test’.


3. The infographic

One of the earliest examples of using infographics came from an unexpected source.

Not only was Florence Nightingale a pioneer of modern medicine, she was also a big fan of the coxcomb chart (pictured right).

In 1857, she used the technique to persuade Queen Victoria to improve the conditions of military hospitals during the Crimean War.

According to the Visually website, the average increase in traffic after publishing an infographic on the web is 12%, proving that the brain loves visual data.

Now, while we can’t expect every graph we use to change the world, the Lady with the Lamp has shown us the power of presenting data visually – especially as Queen Vic was notoriously difficult to amuse!


4. The psychology of colour reports that consumers make a subconscious judgment about a product within 90 seconds of initial viewing. And 84.7% of them cite colour as the primary reason they buy a particular product. Getting the colours right is absolutely vital.

Red for example is often used by restaurants to stimulate customer appetites, while retailers use it to impress upon their customers the need for urgency on sales and clearance signs.

Yellow represents clarity and optimism, while blue is a favourite in business as it generates a sense of trust and security in a brand.

Green is associated with wealth and growth, purple with wisdom and creativity, and orange with excitement and energy.

5. The emoji

The origins of emojis can be traced back to Japan in the late-nineties. The idea came to Shigetaka Kurita, who worked for a mobile company, while he was watching the weather forecast.

He liked the way the television presenters used tiny symbols to represent sun, rain and snow. Later on, he also noticed how manga authors were able to capture expression using stock symbols.

The idea gained currency in his company and, by 2015, the already giant emoji library exploded with the introduction of national flags, the pumpkin and the taco to name a few.

This year promises even more choice, as well as the exciting news that the beloved flamenco dancer will finally get a partner, the groovy man (pictured right)…

Emojis have been dubbed the world’s first truly global language and that makes them potential gold dust for creatives in internal comms.

But have you ever wanted to find out which emojis are the most popular? Well now you can at This captivating tool records every time anyone on the planet tweets using an emoji.

At the top of the leaderboard, there are the usual suspects. The love heart. The heart-shaped eyes face. But the laughing face comes out on top with one billion, seventy-six million, two hundred and thirty-one thousand, four hundred and eight tweets.

While these everyday features might be steeped in more history than you first thought, evolution is at the heart of successful design. Our designers and creatives are always ready to push the boundaries to produce award-winning work, so if you’re interested in what we do then why not contact us today?

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