The Z pattern, also called the backward or reverse S pattern, is an advertising layout format designed to help ensure an audience sees and processes important elements of an ad. Only the most egotistical advertiser assumes that audiences read every word of any particular advertisement. Successful advertisers understand that readers typically scan ads quickly.

The Way People Read

When reading anything, including an advertisement, people usually begin in the top left corner. The top right corner is the next place the eyes go. Many readers treat advertisements differently from book text in what they typically do next: Their eyes move from the top right side of the page to the bottom left side, sweeping over the middle part. The eyes usually finish at the bottom right side of the page. This eye movement forms the Z pattern.

Take Advantage

Advertisers can use the Z pattern to design effective ads by placing the most important parts of the ad in the pattern’s path. If you have few key elements to get across in your ad, the classic Z works well. A classic Z type of ad would have the logo in the top left corner and then any important elements all along the top part of the page all the way to the top right corner. An attractive image would be placed in the middle of the page, the place the eye quickly scans on its way to the bottom left. The bottom left and the middle bottom of the page should contain information that tells readers more. Then the ending spot, the bottom right, could contain a take action command or the logo, depending on the ad’s point.


The Z pattern can be more flexible than a simple Z. It can also include a zigzag pattern. The zigzag consists of making smaller Z's that continue down the page. Instead of the eye going from the top right straight to the bottom left, it might go halfway down the page to the middle left, the middle right and then the bottom left and bottom right. This is useful for ads that require more blocks of texts to be read. It follows the same design elements of placing key elements where you want the eye to land.

Different Design Layouts

The Z pattern works best with a simple message that requires a call to action. If you have a complex message to get across, you might want to choose a different layout pattern. Though the zigzag is one option, the F pattern is another layout that advertisers commonly use for complex information. The F pattern assumes readers will scan your ad from left to right and from top to bottom. The most important elements are along the top and the left side of the page.