The Secret To Making Attention-Grabbing Digital Ads

— By

The Kärna Team

Learn about the Visual Hierarchy and how this key graphic design principle can help you achieve digital advertising success.

1.7 seconds.

That’s how long social media users spend looking at content on their phone before scrolling away, according to Meta.

This means that the digital ads for your business need to immediately identify your audience’s pain points and offer a captivating solution in order to keep them engaged.

This may be an intimidating task for a small business but we're here to show you that you have the power to do it.

How? By learning one of the most powerful and effective methods for capturing and holding onto your audience's attention- a Visual Hierarchy.

OK, what is a Visual Hierarchy?

A visual hierarchy refers to arranging the elements in your content by their importance. This has a huge impact on how your audience understand and perceives what you’re showing them.

When you look at a graphic, whether that be on social media or a webpage, you should be able to immediately identify the most important information. If you can't, that’s a sign there’s a poor visual hierarchy.

For example, look at this fake ad we made to show you what it looks like when a visual hierarchy is not used.

Nothing in the ad above stands out because every element is given the same level of importance. When nothing stands out, you won't be drawn in. Instead, you'll just scroll past it without absorbing anything the ad said.

Not to mention, graphics without a visual hierarchy don't look as professional compared to the graphics with a visual hierarchy.

Now, take a look at the graphic below from Appleton Creative to see this key graphic design principle's power.

Understanding Visual Hierarchy Helps Your Customers Understand You -  Appleton Creative

As you can see, using a visual hierarchy is essential for creating top-quality and highly engaging content.

Below, you will learn three worthwhile visual hierarchy strategies you can use to create compelling graphics that can help you grow your audience!

1. Play with Size

Think of headlines in a newspaper, “Wanted” signs, or “Now Hiring” signs. It’s clear what you’re looking at because of the big, bold lettering that demands your attention and pulls you in to learn more.

Now, think of fine print on an advertisement for dietary supplements. It often includes the harmful side effects of taking the product. But since this can discourage people from purchasing it, the company uses fine print. If you're like most people, you won't be bothered to read something so small- even though you should.

You can easily apply these same ideas to your marketing content by making your audience's wants and needs central to your graphic.

For example, in the Tim Hortons ad above, the creators made "FREE COFFEE" the biggest thing on the graphic and made the eligibility criteria much smaller. This works well to attract and excite viewers because, well, who doesn't love free coffee?!

It's not until after engaging with the ad that you learn you have to make a minimum purchase of $0.50 and order through the app. But at that point, you may already be sucked in enough that you won't mind putting a little extra effort in to get your free reward!

2. Use Colours and Contrast

The colours you choose play a significant role in how your audience perceives and feels about your brand. We go into more detail about this in our blog on Colour Theory.

Look at the image below of the Kärna slogan using colours that don't contrast.

When you don't use contrasting colours for your content, your viewers have to put more effort into trying to decipher what your message says. Just take a look at the example we made below based on the Kärna site.  

Visuals like the example above are eyesores and can leave your audience feeling frustrated.

Now, look at this screenshot of the REAL Kärna website below. You can see that the contrast between our signature dark blue and bright green work to amplify each other. After reading our catchy slogan, your eyes are immediately pulled to the contrasting colours of the "Start Your Project" button.  

Visuals, like the example above, that use contrasting colours to help establish a visual hierarchy appear more organized, are easy to understand, and leave a memorable and positive impression on viewers.

3. Use Positive and Negative Space

All visuals are made up of positive and negative space.

Positive space refers to the main elements of a graphic while negative space is the blank space surrounding them.

For example, below, you can see Apple's ad for the MacBook Air when it was first released in 2008.

The positive space includes the text, the yellow notebook, the red string, and the side profile of the MacBook Air. The negative space is the white surrounding everything.

The negative space plays a very important role in directing viewers' attention to the thinness of the product, which is the main selling point. It also helps highlight the key minimalist elements of the brand and product. Without it, the desired effect and message would be lost.

While there is no clear-cut formula on how to find the perfect balance of positive and negative space for your marketing content, just remember less is always more. Doing so will help you effectively communicate the most important elements and messages to your audience.


Taking the time to truly understand and learn about the visual hierarchy will help you create highly effective designs that communicate your desired messages and bring you closer to reaching your business’ goals.

Give your business a head-start in design by working with our experts to create captivating visuals and templates that push your business forward!

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December 28, 2022
Graphic Design
The Kärna Team
December 28, 2022
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