Visual Hierarchy & How To Use It In Your Designs
Have you ever looked at an image and realized that you had no idea what message you were supposed to get from that image? If you were confused by the message, there’s a good chance that the designer didn’t follow the rules of good design. While every designer is unique, there are a few basic principles that we all agree on. Among those principles is the visual hierarchy. In basic terms, visual hierarchy is the alignment, size, and distribution of elements in a design. As a designer, it is your job to align, scale and distribute objects in a way that allows the viewer to immediately distinguish the most important information from the other general text.
Hierarchy serves as the design’s main structure. It guides your viewers through your design in a logical and meaningful way. By using the best practices for implementing hierarchy, you ensure that your viewer isn’t confused or receiving mixed messages. In addition to guiding the viewer through the design, proper use of hierarchy can reinforce concepts and evoke a specific set of emotions. Poorly implemented hierarchy leaves your viewers with a sense of emptiness and disorganization.
It’s not difficult to implement effective visual hierarchy in your designs. Here are a few simple guidelines that will aid in adding well-implemented hierarchy to your designs.
Visual Hierarchy Is All About Contrast
The first step to implementing hierarchy is to simply change the size of your text. A classic example is using large or bold font for the most important information and using a more subtle font or smaller font size for less important information. You can further increase your hierarchy by using headers and subheads in addition to your titles and body text.
- Paint the town red. Well maybe that’s taking it a bit far, but you should be using multiple colors in your design. There shouldn’t be enough colors to complete the rainbow, but there should be 2 to 3 colors in your design that either contrast or compliment one another. Using different colors helps to add diversity to your design. It’s really easy for all the words to start running together when there isn’t something in place to add some visual space and break up the monotony.
Think about your design as a road map. When you’re working on your design, it’s important to plan out how the viewer will navigate through your design. Where will the viewer start? Will they be looking top to bottom, left to right, or in some abstract direction? Place your elements based on the path the viewer will take in order to get to their destination.
Add a New Perspective
Size and scale are super important when it comes to conveying hierarchy, but another important element is perspective. Using distance and dimension to show some things closer or farther away is a key way of implementing hierarchy. Objects that seem closer to the view automatically seem more important than objects that appear in the distance. Also making an object appear at the top of a certain design can also imply importance when compared to an object that appears at the perceived bottom of the design.
Distance yourself. The direct companion of perspective is distance. Adding distance will also change the perspective as well as give viewers a visual marker of what they should be thinking of as the most important elements of the design. Let’s say for example, that your design includes a book hovering above a table. Because the book is hovering, it is seen as more important. This example demonstrates how distance shows hierarchy and also effects the perspective. A hovering book is in the foreground and the table is in the background. There are several ways to create those optical illusions in your designs and guide viewers to the conclusion that you’d like them the draw from seeing the design.