Design is not just about creating pretty things, it is about effectively communicating with the viewer. Visual hierarchy is a tactic many graphic designers use to achieve a layout that gets the right message across and is appealing to the eye. Below are the five components of visual hierarchy: scale, color, contrast, alignment, and proximity.
1. Scale: It’s true. Size does matter! Our brain assigns importance to larger objects and this can be applied to guide the viewer’s eye to the essential element of the design. For example, is your eye drawn to the phrase “In Store Only” or “Save 15%” in the David’s Tea ad below?
2. Color: Color is another visual organizational tool our brain uses to navigate through a design. In the Spotify ad below, the green pop of color guides our eye through the ad giving importance to the headline and logo.
3. Contrast: Dramatic shifts in color or text signal change and catches the viewer’s eye. Take the example below. The text “download for free” is the same size, but our eye is drawn to “for free” since there is a contrast in the weight of the font. This subtle tactic can be used to highlight the main message in your design.
4. Alignment: This creates order within the design and guides the viewer’s eye around the page. Based on Gutenberg’s diagram, which states a viewer skims the page in a Z-pattern, the most important information should be placed in the upper left and the bottom right hand corner.
5. Proximity: The principle of proximity gives a layout structure by grouping like items together. For example, when you skim the below advertisement you can easily digest the information. You understand that the Bolshoi Ballet is performing Swan Lake, you can learn more about the dance company in the body text, and if you are interested in buying tickets information can be found on the bottom of the page.
As a business owner, you are bound to come across a time when you need to enlist the service of a graphic designer for a promotional piece. When you review their work keep your eyes open for the use of visual hierarchy. You will be surprised how these subtle elements can impact the effectiveness of your message!