Page Layout & Design
Creating Visual Hierarchy
A giant gift resembles the front of a
cruise ship in this poster promoting
a toy drive for cruise line employees.
Design: Greteman Group
Visual Hierarchy
Once the designer has garnered the attention of
the viewer and drawn them into a page layout, it is
important that they remain engaged in the piece. By
determining the order in which page elements are
best perceived, the designer can guide the viewer’s
eyes around the layout from the most important to
the least important pieces of information. This pro-
motes effective communication and comprehension
by the viewer.
Compositionally, visual hierarchy is achieved by con-
trasting elements on a page. Contrast in size, shape,
and color determine the order in which the reader
perceives and then digests the visual information. If
all elements are the same size or similar in color, there
will be no logical progression for the viewer to follow,
which may result in confusion or frustration. Typically,
the largest item on a page or spread will be the fi rst
to be read, but this is not always the case—a small red
dot on a dark background can be just as effective at
catching the attention of the viewer. The hierarchy of
the page should logically present the information.
Some ways of creating dynamic compositions
that use visual hierarchy are:
1. Size: Larger elements appear to be in the
foreground and closer to the viewer; smaller
objects appear to be in the background of a
piece and therefore appear less prominent or
2. Shape: Unique shapes within a layout draw
attention. If square or rectangular copy blocks
are used, incorporating a circular element or a
free-form shape will break the monotony of the
piece and draw the viewer’s eye to that object.
3. Color: Warm colors such as red or yellow will
pop off the page and look as though they are
in the foreground. Cooler colors appear to
recede into the background.
4. Contrast: Creating contrast between two
or more elements draws attention to them.
Large shapes or text placed next to smaller
elements create a dynamic relationship that
pulls those objects closer to the viewer.
5. Movement: Creating a logical sequence or
order within a layout guides the viewer’s eyes
from one element to the next and creates a
strong visual hierarchy. Arrows, rules, or Ge-
stalt principles such as similarity or proxim-
ity may also achieve this goal. Avoid leading
a viewer’s eye off of the page to keep them
engaged with the piece.
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This ad campaign effectively communicates the
product and its attributes even though very few
elements appear on the page. Instead of lengthy
copy or headlines, it relies on visual metaphors to
compare the Sparks energy drink with batteries
that power and boost performance.
Design: Turner Duckworth
Clean layouts and clear organization of content
allow readers of this Department of Health An-
nual Report learn more about the state of health
in England. Cyan-colored text highlights key
points on each spread, while easy-to-read charts
and striking photography emphasize the copy.
Design: CDT Design
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