C.R.A.P. Design Principles for Effective Communication

Effective document design is an integral part of written communication. Whether it be a letter, email, text, website, Facebook post, or technical manual, your message may be lost in translation without a well-designed document. Implement these four basic C.R.A.P. design principles – Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, and Proximity – to enhance your communications process and help ensure your message is effectively received.

Contrast – Color contrast naturally creates a focal point and draws the eye’s attention. Additionally, not enough contrast will blend everything together, making it difficult to read. Do not use colors that are too similar yet slightly different. This will create discord and will have undesirable effects. Using a color wheel can aid in identifying contrasting colors, as well as complementary colors, color schemes, color families, and colors that clash. Try this handy interactive color wheel from TheVirtualInstructor.com.

Repetition – Readers like consistency; they like to know what to expect. Therefore, use the principle of repetition to better engage readers. When readers identify patterns, they tend to be more invested in the content as they locate the continued patterns. Repeat formatting, such as font style, colors, and alignment, throughout the document, and your readers will retain more of your content.

Alignment – Alignment creates relationships between a document’s elements and the page itself, and it leads readers’ eyes, thus catapulting their attention onward. Align elements with the page, as well as with other elements within the document. Repeat alignments, such as left-aligned text and horizontally-aligned images. Alignments control the readers’ eyes; you control the alignments; therefore, you control the readers’ eyes using alignments. This gives you complete control over how readers will read your document. You can lead their eyes to read left-to-right, in a z-pattern, in columns, or even diagonally.

Proximity – Keep similar elements near one another. Doing this will inevitably create flow and harmony throughout the document. We humans expect similar things to be grouped together, so this principle exploits that expectation in order to increase readers’ investments in the content.

Effective communication requires more than just the right words. You can make your readers read more, comprehend more, and retain more, simply by using the C.R.A.P. design principles. These principles will help you deliver your most effective messages.

To learn more, watch this video explaining the four basic C.R.A.P. document design principles.



“CRAP: 4 Basic Principles of Graphic Design.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Nov. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=admfIU5UkUs.

“The Interactive Color Wheel.” The Virtual Instructor, https://thevirtualinstructor.com/members/interactive-color-wheel/.