The Psychology of Consuming Content

As marketers and PR pros, we’re creating content that typically falls into two types of layout categories:

1) Evenly distributed content (like a market brief)

2) A combination of text and images that creates a visual hierarchy (like a newsletter)

It’s important to create these materials with a bit of psychology in mind in order to optimize consumption and better ensure that readers are engaging with the elements that matter most.

Consuming Content That’s Mostly Text: The Gutenberg Diagonal

When following this layout, it’s best to have the headline in the upper left corner, compelling Quadrantsphrases linked along the reading gravity, and the call to action in the lower right corner.


Content can be divided into four quadrants that the eyes sweep down and across (think of
your eye pattern while reading a book). Gutenberg explained that the weak and strong fallow areas are outside of the natural reading gravity and receive the least amount of attention. With this pattern, put the most important information along the reading gravity path: Making the upper left corner, lower right corner, and the line between the two, the most highly consumed areas of the content.

Creating a Visual Hierarchy of Images and Text: The Z Pattern

Use this pattern when there are elements that should be easily seen first (aka the start of visual hierarchy). The idea is, if everything on the page is equal in size and weight, than nothing will in fact stand out and the message gets lost. While taking the “Z” eye pattern into account, it’s best to create 3 visual levels.

Eye Pattern1. The Primary Level (1 to 2): This should draw the reader in and capture attention, like a headline or tagline. As the eyes continue to move along the pattern, the primary level leads to…

2. The Secondary Level (2 to 3): The purpose of this level is to continue drawing the reader’s attention toward the main context, which is located in….

3. The Tertiary Level (3 to 4): Chances are if the reader has engaged with the primary and secondary levels enough to make it to the tertiary level, he or she wants to consume the details of the message. The is where a strong, compelling call to action should be located — just as the Gutenberg diagonal suggests: The lower right corner.