Principals of Design and Visual Hierarchy

According to the Interaction Design Foundation, “visual hierarchy is the principle of arranging elements to show their order of importance… By laying out elements logically and strategically, designers influence users’ perceptions and guide them to desired actions.” To better simplify this statement, it is good to understand the basic principles of design. These pointers should be noted as the building blocks to a strong, cohesive design. Upon having a basic understanding of the principles, we can put them together to articulate powerful compositions.

The fundamental principles of design include Emphasis, Balance, Alignment, Movement, White Space, and more. There are rules followed by professionals to ensure efficient communication of the message they are trying to get across to their audience.

Let’s begin with emphasis, the outstanding headline and center of attention. Emphasis is the bold statement of a clear idea that is right in your face; you cannot miss it. Beginning a composition with a clear idea of what you are trying to communicate is key to a successful design.

Next are balance and alignment, balance being the weight of colors and sizes of your compositional elements and alignment being the position of the elements. It is important to effectively place your points of information to provide a sense of unity and clarity. Balance and alignment have a strong relationship with our next principle, movement.

Movement represents the control of your eye movement within the composition. This is my personal favorite principle of design. This is the creation of the story you are getting across to the viewer, the focus of where the eye should look next, and the path of overall balance and emphasis of the elements portrayed in your design. If a movement is rigid and awkward, it can be harder to get a point across to the viewer. Movement should flow smoothly, like a wave crashing on the beach. The wave is big and powerful, and we know it is getting closer to the climax. Crash! The wave has made its finish on the shore, and we know exactly where it was trying to go by observing its great and powerful movements.

Last, but certainly not least, we have white space, also known as negative space. This is the blank areas of your composition that help balance out hierarchy and organization. According to 99 Designs, “our brains naturally associate ample white space around an element with importance and luxury. It’s telling our eyes that objects in one region are grouped separately from objects elsewhere.” Negative space can add a whole new meaning to your designs, but most importantly, it can add a minimalist style to the message you are trying to portray.

Now, what does all of this have to do with visual hierarchy? Visual Hierarchy is manipulating size, boldness, color, etc. of a given element to visually emphasize its importance. Understanding your basic principles of graphic design can help you to create your visual hierarchy. By emphasizing your headline, maintain your balance, aligning your content properly, displaying visual movement, and highlighting negative space, you can convey your message successfully. You can also give the viewer an exciting journey while they take in your work.

Graphic Design is a specialty we have at SunSpin Media. Call us today at (716) 775-7776 to set up a free consultation for your design needs!