For a quick recap, the Graphic Design 101 series is based on curriculum I have been teaching for Grades 4-8. You can see my previous posts here.
This lesson is on Dominance and Hierarchy in Design. As I wrote 'How to Show Dominance' on the board in my classroom, I realized that statement could have a very negative connotation in other circumstances. But in design, dominance is a good thing! Something has to stand out to attract the viewers' attention, so that they will read the whole message. In a world with so much visual activity swirling around us, you don't want your design to be lost in an endless sea of information.
I identified six basic ways to show dominance in a design.
1. Scale/Size > The biggest element in your design is often the first thing a viewer sees.
2. Value > A smaller item, that is darker than the rest of the design can also be a focal point.
3. Color > Any item that is in stark color contrast to the rest of the design will easily be the first thing to grab attention.
4. Style > Anything in the design that is a different style than the majority of the design, whether shape, texture, content (graphic vs. text), will pop out and create interest.
5. Proximity > Something set apart from the rest of the group, usually by white space, will appear to have more visual importance.
6. Density > Depending on the design, density can be tricky. Sometimes the eye will flock to the "heavier" content, because it is bolder, busier and louder. Other times the eye will first rest in the emptier, "lighter" content.
Next we talked briefly about hierarchy. The general rule is that there should be about three steps to hierarchy in your design. You can remember this by thinking of a book cover, in which Title, Subtitle, and Author usually decrease in size in that order.
To finish off the lesson, I gave the students an activity to reinforce the concepts. First, they divided a sheet of paper into four equal parts. Using the phrase "My Name is ______", they were to practice at least four of the six ways of showing dominance, one in each box. The easiest ones for them to grasp were size, style and color. I had to encourage many of them to make the difference, or contrast, between the items more distinct, so that the dominant word really stood out.
I made them do everything by hand since I haven't introduced the computer yet. But this would be a great introductory project for the computer or typography. Here's my own digital version. I tried really hard to keep it to only one contrasting element per graphic, but in a real project, you make the biggest impact when you combine several of the elements. For instance, a great heading might be large, a different color, a different style and set apart from the rest of the text!
Luke and I are married and have four little munchkins that travel the world with us. I blog about living overseas, travel, kids, education and graphic design.
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