Design Principles for Video

You may think “I’m not a designer so I can’t make well designed videos.”  But there are 4 primary principles that graphic designers follow and they’re easy enough for anyone to apply.

This video does a good job of describing the 4 principles and showing examples of each.  But, in terms of video design, there are some problems in this video.  See my analysis below the video.

The CRAP principles are good basic guidelines for design, but there are some special concerns in video that need to be treated differently than in traditional graphic design.

When someone is looking at a printed page or even a static page online, like a web page or a sales page, they can take their time exploring all the information on that page.

When someone is watching a video, they need to be able to very quickly find what’s important on each frame and be able to easily and quickly read any text — BEFORE it disappears and the next frame comes into view!

Here are several things I would change in the video above to help viewers grasp the message:

  • Take the idea of Contrast to the extreme to make it even easier for viewers to read.  It is harder to read white text on a dark background than dark text on a light background.  So make it easier for your viewers!  If you insist on a dark background, then use larger and bolder fonts for better visibility.
  • The variegated black and gray background in this video also makes the text difficult to read.  This could be easily solved by placing a text box around the text blocks with smaller font sizes and filling each text box with a solid color background.
  • The video also talks about the importance of negative space and of using Contract to make sure the viewer knows where to look.  Yet the slides in this video are much busier than they need to be.  Make it easier for viewers to pay attention to one thing at a time by displaying one principle at a time instead of leaving all 4 principles filling up the left quarter of the screen through most of the video.
  • Contrasting color to create a focal point is a good technique, but again in a video you want to help viewers find the focal point very quickly, so I would add the above concept of removing unnecessary elements from the screen to increase the focus on what is important — namely, the focal point.

With a web-based slideshow, the viewer usually has control over how quickly they advance the slides.  This allows them to finish reading each slide before moving to the next one.

If you take those slides and turn them into a video, now you’ve taken away that control and the viewer is forced to try and read more quickly to keep up with your choice of how fast the slides will move.

For that reason, I recommend using very little on-screen text in a slideshow video.  Use your verbal narration to get the message across and let the slides be filled up with mainly images and movement — not wild and crazy movement, but just enough simple animations to keep the viewer’s attention while they listen.

If you’d like to read more explanation, here’s a prior blog post about formatting slides for a web presentation and an article about formatting for recorded presentations.

To summarize, make it as easy as possible for viewers with these slide video design tips:

  • Using a limited number of fonts, shapes, and colors and repeating them throughout the video
  • Reducing the amount of on-screen text the viewer is expected to read, relying instead on spoken narration
  • When on-screen text is used, make sure fonts are large enough and bold enough for fast reading
  • Creating high contrast between the background and any focal points of text and images
  • Allowing even more negative space so there is less for the viewer to observe quickly
  • Keep each frame simple and spare, but change things up frequently to keep viewers’ attention
  • The rule of thumb I generally follow is that something should change visually about every 10-15 seconds

Do you have any special tips or techniques you like to use in your slideshow videos?  Do you agree or disagree with my recommendations?  Leave a comment — I’m always eager to hear from my readers!

4 Responses to “Design Principles for Video”

  1. Minette says:

    Great application of classic design tips to video. Made me consider how I could apply this to powerpoint presentations as well. I have to laugh because the theme of contrast has showed up for me in an audio book and several different blog posts today, all unrelated to each other but clearly a message to consider. Hmmm… anyway, these are definitely tips worth sharing!

  2. THANK YOU for this! I was in the process of training for UX Design and found myself disappointed that I could not really find a lot of designers who are accessible. This is a great, down-to-earth training with a great principle that is easy to remember.

    This will help me a great deal! Again, thank you!

    • You’re welcome, Christi, and thank you for your comments! Even though I don’t have formal design training, I do find those 4 principles helpful in my work on slideshows and videos. I’m glad you found them helpful too.