How to Design Your Ad Page for a Good Layout

Get your elements in the right place for maximum effect

Vintage ad simulation

Eric Dreyer / Getty Images

All the rules of good page layout apply to ads as well as to other types of documents. However, some generally accepted practices apply specifically to good advertising design.

The goal of most advertising is to get people to take some type of action. How elements of an ad appear on the page can help accomplish that goal. Try one or more of these layout ideas for a better ad.

Ogilvy Layout

Research indicates that readers typically look at ads in this order:

  1. Visual: the main picture in the ad
  2. Caption: text that describes the visual
  3. Headline: the "slogan" of an ad, company, or product
  4. Copy: text that describes the product or service the ad is about
  5. Signature: the advertiser's name and contact information

Arranging these elements in the order in which a person would read them is called the "Ogilvy," after advertising expert David Ogilvy.

Z Layout

To create this layout, impose the letter Z (or a backward S) on the page. Place important items or those you want the reader to see first along the top of the Z. The eye normally follows the path of the Z, so place your "call to action" at the end of the Z.

This arrangement coincides nicely with the Ogilvy Layout, in which the visual and headline occupy the top of the Z and the Signature with a call to action are at the end of it.

Single Visual Layout

Although it is possible to use multiple illustrations in a single advertisement, one of the simplest and perhaps most powerful layouts use one strong visual combined with a strong (usually short) headline plus additional text.

Illustrated Layout

Use photos or other illustrations in an ad to:

  • show the product in use
  • show the results of using the product or service
  • illustrate complicated concepts or technical issues
  • grab attention through humor, size, dramatic content

Top Heavy Layout

Lead the reader's eye by placing the image in the upper half to two-thirds of the space or on the left side of the space. Place a strong headline before or after the visual, and then add the supporting text.

Upside Down Layout

One test as to the quality of an ad layout is whether or not it still looks good upside-down. Once you've finished your ad, turn it bottom-up and hold it out at arm's length. If the layout and composition still look good from that viewpoint, you're on the right track.