Callouts are Effectiver in Print and Web Design

Close up of 'OMG' text in speech bubble
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In the world of print and web publishing, a callout most often takes the form of a text or graphic label that directs attention to an element in an illustration, often in the form of an arrow, box, or circle superimposed on the graphic, and often in a contrasting color to cause it to jump out at the reader or viewer. The arrow, box, or circle may be accompanied by text, or the meaning may be obvious from the context in which the callout is found. They are most often used on complex graphics that require some explanation.

Circles and Arrows and Bubbles! Oh, My!

Graphic designers and page layout artists use callouts to emphasize the importance of some facet of the article or web page. The intent of callouts is to direct the reader's or viewer's attention to a specific area of an image or article to facilitate clear communication.

For example, a tutorial for a software program might use screenshots of the software with each step of the teaching process. A designer who adds red circles around the portion of each screenshot that illustrates the accompanying text is adding callouts to direct the reader or viewer's attention to the specific topic at hand and to make it easier for the reader to visualize the process covered in the tutorial. 

Callouts can take many forms other than circles. Sometimes a callout takes the form of a bordered factoid inset in a printed article. Sometimes the callout is in the form of a speech bubble with an instruction. Arrows are common callouts.

About Pull Quotes

Some designers use the term "callout" to also apply to pull quotes. A pull quote is an excerpt from the text of an article that has been pulled out and used as a graphic element. The excerpt appears in a larger, different font to draw the eye directly to the pull quote. The intent is to attract the readers with an interesting snippet from the article to entice them to read the article. In print, pull quotes break up long blocks of text and are usually positioned within the article text, with the text flowing around the pull quote, or in the margin of a page all alone for emphasis or design purposes.