5 Design Ideas to Simplify Your Layouts

When it comes to layout, ‘less is more’ will achieve better design through simplicity.

Beginners often ask: How many colors should I use in my layout? How many different typefaces should I pick? Which images will look best? With so many different elements to choose from, it’s important to keep layouts simple to ensure designs not only look beautiful but read effectively. Here are six design ideas that will help you to simplify your layouts.

01. Limit the colors in your designs


Color is a powerful tool when creating a new layout, but it’s also important not to get carried away. Before you start designing, choose a color palette of two to four colors and limit yourself to these options. This will ensure the colors in your designs are striking, effective and cohesive, and don’t overpower the composition of your design.

A monochromatic color palette, like this image, includes light and dark versions of a single color, anca can be applied to design for an harmonious feel.

02. Avoid using too many elements


Before and during the creative process, always ask yourself, what is the purpose of my design? What is the ultimate goal and what is the overall message? Make sure everything has a reason to be included in the design. And remember don’t be afraid of white or negative space, which space refers to empty areas within your layout. It can used to frame your elements effectively.

As Coco Chanel famously said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” It’s easy to get carried away so choose your design elements selectively.

03. Substitute text with images


Think visually and let the graphic elements do the talking. Icons are an efficient and effective way to convey your message as well as adding an interesting visual aspect to your designs. However, like other graphic elements, don’t go crazy; most icons work best alone.

Here, the Twitter icon has been placed inside the ‘O’ letter replacing the need for the phrase, ‘Follow me on Twitter’.

04. Limit your font selection


Choosing typefaces that complement each other is a vital part of an aesthetic appealing layout, but again, be selective. Limit your font palette to two or three, including their style variants, such as bold, italic, condensed.

In this image, a serif and sans serif font have been used together (Josefin Slab and Roboto). Also, different font sizes have been used for different lines of text to establish visual hierarchy.

05. Create contrast


Use contrast to create a design that is simple yet effective. Contrast helps particular design elements stand out from one another and can also be used to enhance the mood of an image.  Here, the white text stands out from the pink circle, which jumps out from the black background.

06. Remember the magic number

Still feeling a little overwhelmed by layout? Well, always remember the number three. Think three font sizes, three colors, three bullet points… this is how.

Use THREE font sizes


As mentioned before, different font sizes will establish visual hierarchy in text and it tells the audience what to read first (the most important) and what to read last (the least important). The eye is naturally drawn to large elements, so always make sure your heading, or the information you want people to read first, is the biggest. This should be followed by your subtitle, then your body text. This image uses two different fonts and three different font sizes:

  • Heading: Julian Sans One (42)
  • Subtitle: Libre Baskerville (21)
  • Body Text: Julians Sans One (11)

Use THREE bullet points


Bullet points present information in an ordered and legible fashion. Three bullet points provides readers with information without overcomplicating a design.

Combine THREE elements


Restricting a layout to three elements doesn’t need to reduce your creativity. Rather it gives a framework to experiment within. And using the golden ratio or rule of thirds can make for a harmonious and well-proportioned, attractive design. The image on the left combines a photo background, transparent shape and text, while the image on the right combines a photo background, icon and text.

Position THREE images


Using a grid to position three images can create a visual narrative or theme. Applying a photo filter will give the images a unified and consistent look.


Work to the ‘less is more’ design principle for simple but effective layouts. Restrict the number of fonts, colors and elements you include so as not to detract or distract from the graphic’s main message.

Anna heads up several of Canva's content marketing projects, including her favourite: Design School. She's passionate about the way content can be used to create a meaningful synergy between businesses and their audiences. Say hello on Twitter @AnnaIsabella92.