developing a visual hierarchy…

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02/08/2011 by Sarah Ritchie

In graphic design we stress the importance of creating a “visual hierarchy” in our layout. For example, make sure the most important type is the largest, then the sub heads, body copy is smaller still, and the teeny-weeny photo credit sits at the bottom of the pile in all its 5pt glory.

In fine art, there is also a visual hierarchy of elements, though sometimes it could be called “creating a focal point” or “creating depth”. It can also be refered to as creating a foreground, middle ground and background. The hierarchy is designed to force the viewer’s eye where to look first – on the page or canvas – and then convey the order in which their eyes should move around to best digest the story of your work.

In a mixed media collage you can achieve this effect by literally layering the elements in a sensible order. In 2-dimensional work you may achieve the same effect through variations in element size and/or variations in colour value or intensity.

Whichever way you attack it, it is vital to plan how you will create your “depth” before you start. It will help to prevent losing your focal point amidst your enthusiasm. Yes, and one day I will practise what I preach!


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Sarah Ritchie
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