The FOCUS Process

Caryn Esplin describes the process of visual creation with a very effective acronym:  The FOCUS Process refers to five steps which she uses to organize the process of creating any variety of the visual aspects of advertisements, web pages, fliers, business cards, and other media.

I have gathered some examples of the basic design principles she covers in the middle three steps of her book (The OCU from FOCUS), and will present them here in the order that her text dictates, together with links to the examples I have found.

Organize the Layout

Shape – In this example, still under construction, the designer chose to leave the area under the image full of white space. It creates an interesting effect, because once the audience sees the important information and descriptive photo above, their eyes are drawn from the dark, heavy colors of the auditorium to the light, easy white beneath, where they find the rest of the information they need.


Proximity – The first thing the eye is drawn to here is the sun in the sky, making that the clear focal point. The grouping of images of solar panels flows nicely to show the subject of the advertisement. From there, it’s easy to glide across the white space beneath to the informative text below. Any special manipulation of tracking and kerning is not really necessary here.


Alignment – In the app advertisement on the left, the title and copy are all aligned left, while the phones themselves are diagonally aligned to balance out the spacing of the copy, and follow the rule of thirds. The barcode beneath is also aligned to the text above, and the logo in the bottom right corner is aligned to the barcode. Overall, it creates a good informational flow, as an audience would rapidly be drawn to the bright title and progress through the text, the images on the right complimenting what is being read.


 Combination – Although it was not required for the assignment, I included this example because it seems to effectively demonstrate all three of the principles involved in organizing the layout. The focal point becomes the red “Rhythm Impaired” bar, which, together with the subtext, aligns to the cabinets in the background. The man dancing in the middle carries the flow diagonally to the explanation copy in the bottom right. If you count less busy areas of the background photo as white space, then you have a great synergy of all three principles demonstrated here, along with asymmetry and color from chapter 5, Contrast the Elements.

Organize the Elements

 Contrast the Elements

 Asymmetry – The asymmetrical design of this website suggests that this group really is not just any old enterprise initiative, breaking the traditional alignment rules for text and adding a bold red arrow to draw attention to the asymmetrical text as the focal point.


 Value – The lighter value used on this painting by Romney (and edited by Stapleton Kearns) shows the importance of value in highlighting the subject on the painting. Lady Hamilton’s facial features and decolletage are highlighted by higher value, causing her dark eyes and fair features to stand out. The background has been made to look like dusk, and the value in the lower left area creates the effect of the last ebbs of a sunset.


Color – The blue saturation levels here heavily suggest that the flavor of Gatorade being advertised is supposed to be exactly what the copy states: light, crisp, and refreshing.

The color combination, made with the orange components of the Gatorade bottle, is complimentary, and uses darker shades to avoid clashing.


Repetition – This advertisement uses repetition, specifically the “rule of odds,” to impress on us the features of the shoe and get the Asics athletic logo on the advertisement as part of the branding. It makes for an interesting flow as well, the largest shoe becoming a focal point and pointing to the next shoe in the series, which points to the last. That conveniently leads to the ad copy, which ends just in time to see features of the shoe in action, these images also following the rule of odds.


Rhythm – The spacing of the blobs of words in this flier give a rhythmic syncopation to the phrases used, which was obviously desired due to their colloquial nature. It conveys the easy-going feel of the event. It causes the audience to read the words with a specific meter and separates the phrases in the mind to allow for a certain rhyming pattern.


Gestalt – The symbolism used in these posters shows what they really deal with. In the Offbeat Sports Network poster, the gestalt used shows how all extreme or irregular sports are represented and connected together, which must reflect the goal of the network.

The second example is an excellent symbolism of music as water, with notes and staff lines becoming flowing, crashing waves, conveying the powerful and fluid nature of the music.

The gestalt in both of these examples involves powerful symbols of what the intended audiences of these ads are searching for, appealing in the first to the desire for comradery and unity among athletes, and in the second to the desire for emotion-filled, satisfying music.

Gestalt – Network

Gestalt – Music


One thought on “The FOCUS Process

  1. Stuart, this is impressive! I love the way you have set this up and your writing style is engaging and real…especially given that these posts are part of class assignments. This post particularly caught my eye because of your exploration of Gestalt…the concept shapes a pretty broad form of psychotherapy as well, one that emphasizes personal responsibility and mindfulness of the big or whole picture of one’s interactions with others and here-and-now experiences. If an individual’s consciousness or life is perceived only as a whole, sometimes the dysfunction of smaller pieces/areas is missed or misunderstood (“I am a confident, well-adjusted being…why am I depressed all the time?”…when there is a traumatic experience or medical issue or a lot of guilt/shame about some incident that hasn’t been dealt with) but on the flip side of that, it can be inhibiting and problematic to place too much focus on individual aspects of life (my job, my relationship with my mom, my illness) without encouraging a “whole” (or even eternal, in our vernacular;) perspective … Thus missing the forest for the trees. So interesting!

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