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I was displaced by Hurricane Laura last August, and after 11 months, I was able to move back home. I still have most of my stuff in boxes, stacked in the middle of rooms throughout the house, waiting for the contractor to finish the quarter-round trim. (Until then, everything is stacked away from the baseboards and it seems like that’s where most of the “big stuff” goes.) So. Waiting again…But happy to be back in my workspace–sort of.

Why does this matter?

I had to shuffle some stuff around last night and came across my cork board, the one that used to hang over my desk before my desk became a good place to stack stuff out of the way. I keep important items on my cork board, things I want to remember. (I bet your cork board or work area is the same.) I thought it might be fun to take the next four weeks of August and bring you some wisdom from my cork board, four random notes I jotted down over the years to guide my work

Cork Board Wisdom #1

“Find the most important benefit (the promise) and subordinate the rest.”

This came from a copywriting course I took quite a few years ago, and I’ve learned this bit of knowledge translates well to just about every form communication.

It’s similar to “keep the main thing the main thing,” but I like this quote better because it directs me to intentionally SUBORDINATE EVERYTHING ELSE to the MOST IMPORTANT thing.

A Life Lesson from Graphic Design

This knowledge–find the most important benefit and subordinate the rest–made me a better graphic designer. I learned to keep the most important “takeaway” the prominent feature of my layouts by forcing attention there first. 

In graphic design, this is referred to as visual hierarchy and here’s a pretty good definition from Canva. (As you read this, think about how this principle translates to other forms of communication, too.)

“Visual hierarchy is the order in which humans process information on a page. It’s a system to prioritize elements so that they are easily understood. Without a visual hierarchy or design structure, users can be overwhelmed and as a result, fail to take anything in. That’s why it’s important to organize elements in a way the human eye can make sense of them.”

The Canva Blog

This lesson applies well to graphic design, public speaking, ad copy, emails, conflict resolution, and even novels. If you want to communicate effectively, it’s good to keep THE most important thing in mind and force yourself to subordinate the rest. Otherwise, you can overwhelm your audience and muddle the message.

Much of this relates to psychology and physiology, how the human brain operates. Our brains need hierarchy to make sense of information.

With the written word, titles, headings, sub-headings, italics, bullets, and bold fonts can be used to clarify information and help our audience better understand.

In public speaking, it’s helpful to have one main takeaway, then subordinate everything else. You’ve no doubt had to sit through the alternative…a meandering ramble that leaves you with one thought only: Get me out of here!

Find the most important benefit and subordinate the rest.

So, there you go. That’s a tip from my cork board. What about YOU? Got a piece of wisdom staring at you from your own cork board or workspace? Share it with us!

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