Do you ever find pleasure in the chiming of a grandfather clock or in honking geese as they migrate for the winter?

Repetition is therapeutic.

Rituals provide structure and something to hold on to, and they free us from the tyranny of choices and chaos. Repetition can help complicated pieces of music, movies, or books reveal the depths of their richness. And repetition in design adds consistency, beauty, and unity.

Strong designs repeat some aspect or element throughout the entire piece. The recurring element may be a bold font, a thick line, a snappy bullet icon, a repeating color or page layout, or anything that a reader will visually recognize.

From business cards to complex multi-page booklets, subtle repetition is a visual cue that ties every piece together. Want to be more intentional in your repetitive elements? Here are some options to try:

Headlines and Subheads

All text starts somewhere, and text banners are a perfect way to add graphic unity.

Are all the headlines in your newsletter 14-point Times Bold? How about investing in a very bold sans serif and making all your heads something like 16-point Mikado Ultra? Take the repetition that’s already part of the project and elevate it, making it stronger and more dynamic.

This adds beauty to the page and anchors readers in a framework of ideas.

Rule Bars or Page Numbers

When creating multi-page publications, it should be perfectly obvious that pages 2 and 12 are part of the same piece.

Beyond similar layouts, adding simple elements like rule bars and page numbers can bring harmony to your design. Try a thick, heavy rule bar on the top of each page and a narrow bar of the same color at the bottom. Label your pages with more than just numbers; design these digits with heavy fonts, fun shadow boxes or slashes, or print them vertically by rotating them 90 degrees.

Recurring Shapes

Patterns are a pleasing way to add visual continuity to flyers, reports, or even product packaging. Here are three ideas:

  1. If you choose a branch as one of your central graphics, you might add smaller leaves throughout the document (as column markers, page number outlines, or bullet icons, for example).
  2. Add colored waves behind the text that repeat in variations of your color palette or in repeating style (like a freeform eggplant shape) throughout the document.
  3. Splatter your text across a subtle background of grid and dot patterns.

Playful Characters or Color Matching

Not everything needs to be serious!

Have a little fun by adding repetitive elements that have nothing to do with your page’s purpose. Add funky bird caricatures, petroglyph characters, or a toss of confetti. Borrow the colors in these images and match or complement them with handles in your text.

Feel free to add something completely new simply for the purpose of repetition!

Consistency Counts

Don’t underestimate the power of the visual interest of your pages.

The repetition of your work will eliminate chaos and add beauty to your work. Think of repetition as consistency, but push those existing patterns a bit farther. Can you turn some of your repetitive elements into a part of the conscious design strategy? Take a unifying graphic and create spinoffs of this concept to bring subtle accents to each page.

Sound time-consuming? It’s worth the effort! Repetition matters because when a piece looks more interesting, it is more likely to be read.

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