Contrast is a highly prized element of graphic design.


Readers notice contrasting elements. Changes in font, color, and layout are examples of contrasting elements. To promote focus, contrast should be dramatic. Yet this doesn’t mean you should align garish, bright colors with soft pastels.

To develop your “design eye,” take a moment to analyze the design of documents you see each day. Look at newspapers and magazines, evaluating how they use contrasting colors and fonts to draw your eye to their advertisement or story.

The screenshots below provide interesting examples of contrast used in document design. You can double-click the screenshot to enlarge it or visit the document by double-clicking the document title in the right column.

In the Do Not Call Federal Registry, note the use of contrasting colors–blue, green, black, and white–to highlight and contrast information. The box below the black and then green line, the one that says “Do Not Call” is set off from the rest of the text, so users can quickly accomplish their goal: clicking the button necessary to begin the process of entering phone numbers in the do not call registry. The contrasting colors are used consistently throughout the site: blue and green are used to highlight hyperlinks. The left column is set aside from the text block on the right to also help with navigation. Even the visual–the phone over the house–uses all four colors.

Principles of Design