Designing a Better Display pt. 1

I’d like to dedicate this entry to beginnings. When approaching a new display for a new year, different people start off in different head spaces. I like to try to begin planning displays by starting with layout. What I mean is considering the space requirements of each piece of your display and filing them into an organized layout from a design perspective.

The great (and sometimes challenging) thing about art is that there are countless ways to do anything, which also means that there is no exact right way to do it. If you’re looking for the manual, you won’t find it because there isn’t an exact answer. But, there are some basic concepts of design that would be helpful knowledge in planning your next display. Let’s consider a few concepts.


Balance is the distribution of visual weight within your display. Visual weight can be based on size, color, or texture…so it isn’t as straight forward as creating a symmetrical display. A symmetrical display would be the easy way out, but also certainly one way to do it. Consider asymmetrical balance especially when you are creating a display that utilizes many different shapes and sizes of elements that you have acquired over the years.

In asymmetrical balance, one large display element – like a big tree – can balance a number of smaller elements. A textured or more interesting looking element would balance a larger, plainer element. Within the Christmas realm, there is also a psychological weight to consider: the spiritual gravity of a small nativity display could be enough visual weight to balance against larger or bolder elements. Generally, I like to concentrate the display around one heavily weighted object, which leads me to my next point.

Focal Point

Your focal point is an emphasized element. Generally speaking, this is the element in your display that carries the most visual weight. A large tree near the center of your display would steal the attention of your audience. It is larger and perhaps brighter than your other elements in the display. The focal point is the very first item that your guest will see when they look at your display. If you’d rather your audience see the display as a whole, rather than a single piece, you can do away with a focal point and instead use another technique to bring harmony and balance to your display.


Rhythm in this sense is visually creating a pattern of repetition. Putting multiple elements in line that are similar or slightly modified creates a harmonious grouping. For example, a cascade of arches or mini-trees across the front lawn, or a long line of candy canes. These series of items are more easily identifiable as parts of a whole rather than individually as single elements, so generally it is weighted heavier when considering balance. The degree of likeness, but also the amount of spacing, creates a particular visual rhythm as your eye moves across the display. Being able to lead the eyes of your audience allows you, the designer, even more control over the end user experience.

Think of your show as a work of art. It is a gift to your community as an experience and a cool or beautiful decoration. It is a visual and sometimes audible design, and the rules of design pertain to it. In the next newsletter, we will explore this topic a bit further and I’ll give you picture examples of how design pertains to our passion of outdoor Christmas decoration!

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