The Inverted Pyramid Of Visual Design

The idea is that the critical information is presented immediately and then additional information is presented that expands on, explains, and reinforces the main idea.

At any point someone should be able to stop reading without missing the main message. Those who read more get more, but everyone gets the main idea you’re trying to communicate.

The main benefits of the inverted pyramid are:

* It quickly conveys key information
* It establishes a context in which to interpret subsequent information
* It’s initial chunks of information are more likely to be remembered later
* It allows for efficient scanning and searching
* It can be easily edited since least important information is presented last

The above could equally be goals of a good design. We want our designs to quickly communicate important information, be remembered, and establish context, don’t we?

The cons of the inverted pyramid are:

* Doesn’t allow flexibility of building suspense or creating surprise ending
* Can lead to perception of being uninteresting

Whenever it’s important to present information efficiently and quickly, the inverted pyramid is an excellent style to follow. Your lead (opening paragraph) becomes a concise overview of whatever it is you’re writing and you can follow the lead with more detailed chunks of information for those that want to know more.


In one second the user should understand generally where they are
—largely driven by visuals and functionality.
If we can keep people for 10 seconds, they should understand our primary message.
If they stay for two minutes, some secondary messages should be getting through.
All this feeds into a call to action.
Kristina Halvorson

Journalists use the inverted pyramid style of writing to quickly convey the most important information of a story to readers. It works because no matter how far into an article someone reads the most important information gets through.

The more you read the more detailed information you get, but no matter where you stop reading the main message has been conveyed. Can web designers do something similar visually?

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