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Emphasis Strategies

The logo, headline, or word graphic you’re working on may have several words, but are each of its words equally important to the reader? That’s doubtful.

For example, let’s say you’re working on a logo for Memphis Guitar and Music. Within this name, does the word and deserve to be presented with equal importance as Memphis, Guitar, or Music? Probably not, even though it’s a word that plays the important role of making sure people know that the shop has more than one thing to offer.

Which, then, among the words Memphis, Guitar, and Music is most critical? That all depends on which one—or ones—the client wants to emphasize. (Interested in seeing how different incarnations of this logo might appear, depending on different choices in emphasis? Turn to the next spread).

With considerations like this in mind, make it a priority to talk with your client about the relative significance of the words within the logo you’re designing. If it turns out that one or more words needs to stand out above the others—as is very often the case—then make a point of coming up with a design that guides viewers to the word—or words—that need emphasizing. Take this work very seriously. After all, logos usually have only a second or two to catch viewers’ attention, and if a logo’s primary message can’t be delivered within this amount of time, then it may not be delivered at all.

How can you establish different levels of emphasis among a logo’s words? Two ways: First, by enhancing the visual impact of certain words by making them bigger, bolder, and/or more colorful than the others. And second, by making sure you’re playing down the visual presence of other words within the design by restraining their size, weight, and coloring.

Directing the eye

The eye likes to avoid confusion by being given cues as to where it’s supposed to look.

On this page, the eye is first drawn to a bold central word and its impossible-to-ignore colored character before being pulled toward typographic elements that offer themselves more quietly (this block of text among them).

Size considerations

Size differences, of course, are one way of ensuring that a logo’s type sends the right message to viewers. And not only that, size differences between any of a composition’s elements—especially when those differences are great—can add feelings of energy and excitement to a design.

Note how two of these three designs play up the importance of just one word, and how one of them highlights two words equally. The correct solution for any logo depends on the goals you and your client are after in presenting it to the world. You can help your client solidify these objectives through the range of ideas you present to them.

Weight and color

Each of the logos above features sets of words from a single typeface that are presented in identical point sizes. See how weight and color are employed to bring emphasis to one or more words within each design.

When you’re looking for ways of establishing visual hierarchy within single-typeface logos, headlines, and word graphics, consider each of these variables—weight, color, and size—and think about employing one, two, or all three to bring emphasis where it belongs.

Color for emphasis


Imagine you’re creating a headline and a subhead for a magazine or a website. You’ve come up with typography that looks good, and now you’re looking for ways of adding notes of style and/or emphasis through color alone.

What about coloring just the subhead or just the headline? It’s a simple and attractive solution that also helps the design’s two main components differentiate themselves.


How about using a bright accent color to bring emphasis to a single word—especially if that word is likely to attract notice and act as bait for further reading?

Note, also, that gray has been used to shade this example’s subhead—a ploy that adds a subtle degree of visual complexity to the design.

Don’t use just any good looking hue when adding color to type. Color should not only look good, it should also echo meanings and feelings that are being communicated through a design. The head/subhead examples on this spread have been adorned with the national colors of Italy: green, white, and red.

Things are turned around here as black is used as a background for white and colored type.

The headline/subhead presentation above gains an extra measure of visual flair through an unconventional application of alternating colors within its first word and also through its use of three colors within the following two lines of type.

On a technical note, the red that appears on this page is slightly lighter than that used on the previous page. This page’s red was lightened to help it stand out better against its black backdrop. Be attentive to adjustments like these whenever applying color to type.

And what about a less intuitive application of color within your headline/subhead? In this case, an unexpected item is highlighted within the subhead to bring attention to certain words deemed more worthy of attention than the headline itself.

Note also that most of this design’s subhead is a light gray. Not something that readers would necessarily notice right away, but still a treatment that helps the headline and subhead stand apart from each other.

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