- The editor's decision where and how to place items on a screen is crucial for the design of information displays, such as websites. We developed a statistical model that can facilitate automating this process by predicting the perceived importance of screen items from their location and size. The model was developed based on a 2-step experiment in which we asked participants to rate the importance of text articles that differed in size, screen location, and title size. Articles were either presented for 0.5 seconds or for unlimited time. In a stepwise regression analysis, the model's variables accounted for 65% of the variance in the importance ratings. In a validation study, the model predicted 85% of the variance of the mean apparent importance of screen items. The model also predicted individual raters' importance perception ratings. We discuss the implications of such a model in the context of automating layout generation. An automated system for layout generation can optimize data presentation to suit users' individual information and display preferences. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.