For brands, earning the attention of today’s consumers, particularly younger generations, is a daunting proposition that will continue to remain tricky as the world spins with more content and information circulation than ever before.

Generation Z, expected to account for 40% of all U.S. consumers in 2020, responds well to visual content but will remain attentive on subjects for just eight seconds. The estimated attention span of Millennial users is only slightly longer at twelve seconds. Needless to say, as brands try capturing either of these audiences, not much room for design or user experience error exists.

The creative process must yield a graceful balance between art & science, one where design genius feels right and passes the eye test even when appearing effortless. Here lies the power of minimalism, where products or subjects are stripped of unnecessary embellishments in order to showcase delicate intuition and function. Less is more.

Any brand with ambitions for a successful product or web design must display a commitment to basic design elements, to complement the brilliance of a product or service itself.

With consumer attention coming at a premium, understanding basic design elements becomes a framework for harmonizing user experience through sharp, memorable impressions.

Designer drawing on a tablet with a stylus.


A line, often serving as the foundational element for designers in a “blank canvas” phase, can be defined as two connected points in space which direct a user’s eyes to a specific location. Lines are most often characterized as vertical, horizontal, diagonal and curved, and are what divide space in visuals. Lines denote movement and convey mood, while also providing emphasis on visual spaces. They can be a particularly relatable design element for print publications that separate and organize content in a structured format. IBM, AT&T and Cisco are brands that seamlessly weave lines into their respective logos with purpose.


Color evokes a mood and contributes to the wide range of emotions that users will feel upon interaction with a brand or visual format. More importantly, color serves as a strong point of differentiation for brands as a tangible design element that users will resonate with (or not) almost immediately. According to research, 60% of people will decide whether or not they’re attracted to a message based solely on color alone. Black color will often symbolize power or sophistication, while orange will more closely resemble playfulness or vitality. A darker shade of blue will often represent professionalism or trust, while a purple color will typically allude to royalty and/or luxury. Intentional color schemes can be applied to other key visual elements so that a brand’s identity can shine through.


Shapes, defined by boundaries such as lines and colors, add interest to visuals and are often used to highlight a portion of any visual. Shapes can be mechanical, organic or abstract. Mechanical shapes, geometric in construction, contain hard edges and offer a feeling of stability & order in design. Organic shapes are irregular and feature curves or unexpected angles to create a more expressive design that’s less controlling. Abstract shapes are stylized versions of organic shapes that can help convey a message, such as letters and icons to represent ideas. Iconic brands are able to make a statement and generate considerable user recall with shapes as stand-alone features. Take Microsoft’s distinct square shapes (and colors) logo which aesthetically translates to formidable “branding” recognizability in product placement. Mitsubishi’s famous three-diamond mark suggests integrity and reliability in the brand while carrying even deeper meaning.

Although securing user attention is and will continue to be an ongoing challenge for brands, strong, artful use of lines, colors and shapes can sway users in favor while adding context to a brand mission. To capture users with an emotional component and add “mystique” to your brand story, be intentional about how these basic design elements will play into your visual strategy.