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I Can See Clearly Now

Let's talk about about designing for priorities. First things first. Have a look at this classic video.

Ahh yes, the ol' bait n' switch. A perfectly clean package messed up by over prioritization or lack of. It's happened to the best of us and it's easy to see in the video that each bit of content became less noticeable as the design progressed. As a result the final product was messy and the benefits were lost.


At the onset of any project priorities always seem simple but as we sink deeper into the weeds things can get murky. That got me thinking - designing for priorities is a lot like fishing. It's an odd analogy - but stay with me.

As a child, my summers were spent up north at our family cottage. I loved nothing more than to go fishing with my dad. We woke at the crack of dawn, grabbed our bait, and took our usual seats in the canoe. As we pulled our paddles through the smooth water and cut through the rising mist our direction was always clear. Head for the bridge, over the beaver dam and drop anchor by the deep rock ledge. Then – catch fish.

My dad was a great fisherman and he would never fail to prepare methodically for his next cast. His tackle box was a treasure chest packed with colourful lures and jigs – each one with its own special purpose. He taught me that if I take it step-by-step the old saying ‘hook, line, and sinker’ holds true every time.

The Hook

In communication design the hook is the top level in the overall hierarchy. It can be a headline, a tantalizing image or a striking graphic. It's the big juicy worm (benefit) that appeals to the audience and it is, by far, the most noticeable element of the piece. By tastefully using scale, colour, or contrast as a highlighting method a well baited hook gets 'em every time.

The Line

The line is a call to action, or contact information. Think of it as "dropping someone a line." It needs to be found easily and quickly and it is second on the list of priorities – not the last. If you must put it at the bottom of a piece make sure it stands out. Chances are high that the viewer won't read every word so ensure once they're hooked, the line is strong enough to reel them in.

The Sinker

The sinker keeps the line and hook steady. The line can't stay true if the sinker doesn't provide stability. In a layout the body copy is the sinker. It supports the benefits by virtue of the information it provides. If a potential customer is interested they need proof to validate that their first impression (the hook) is real.

So that's it. A little trip down memory lane and a fishing story. Who knew that good design and fishing go hand in hand?

If you need to focus on designing for priorities or just want to share some angling stories drop me a line. Oh, and I promise no more fishing puns.

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