Design Concepts for Standout Visuals

Article 2 min
Use these concepts to create effective designs and produce excellent layouts.

Design is the process of developing a plan for a visual product using visual language to communicate ideas, concepts and messages to a specific audience. Layout is the arrangement of text, images and/or graphics. 

A successful design connects the viewer and the message.  Composition, Components and Content, known as the Three Cs of Layout, are fundamental concepts to achieve successful designs that result in effective layouts.  

Composition is the way the components of a layout are visually combined and arranged. Ask these questions to determine the position of the elements in a layout:

  • What is the product and how will it be presented?
  • Is the message you are trying to communicate evident to the user?
  • Have I demonstrated the principles of design - balance, rhythm, unity, emphasis and contrast?

Components are the visual elements used within a design. Examples of components include photos, illustrations, icons, typography, lines, decorations, borders and backgrounds. Choice and placement of the elements should be considered in relation to the total composition. Keep these text guidelines in mind:


  • Legible: Ensure you can make out all the letters.
  • Readable: Copy should flow naturally and make sense. Poor text hierarchy can ruin a good layout.
  • Size and space: Font should be spaced and sized appropriately for the product and message.


  • Cropping: Use the cropping tool to zero in on the message.
  • Color: Adjust the color within the image elements to establish visual interest, create a focal point or add variety (within the constraints of DoD ethics policies).

Color and Value

  • Unify: Use color and value to bring your design together and create a theme.
  • Energize: Bold decisions around color can add tension– when needed– to produce a more vibrant layout.

Design Choices

  • Connotation: Each element communicates a meaning and style, which should tie into the layout's overall theme, support the layout's purpose and help communicate the intended message.
  • Attributes: Text, imagery, color and all other possible elements should create balance, rhythm, unity and emphasis.
  • Placement: Elements either serve as a focal point or a support for the main idea.

Concept is the theme or style of design (based on the purpose of the product) used to reinforce the message and appeal to the target audience. These intangible ingredients of a design are critical to its visual presentation and delivery of the message.

  • Clarity: Simplify the work to create the biggest visual impact.
  • Unity: Remove competing elements that can muddy the message for a unified theme.
  • Purpose: Know your purpose so your viewer doesn't misinterpret your meaning.
  • Audience: Tailor the text and images to the target audience.

Use the infographic as a design cheat sheet to enhance your understanding of the details that make up the Three Cs of Layout.

principles of design
principles of design infographic
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