Visual Hierarchy (cont.)

Hierarchy is thought of as a natural order of things, which makes for a nice visual relationship. Design and life is merely this same natural order. As a relationship, we can look further into these connections between 1st read, 2nd read, and 3rd read, etc… 1st read can be thought of as a parent to the 2nd read, the child, and 2nd read is the parent to the 3rd read. Further, 2nd read is dependent on the 1st, 3rd is dependent on the 2nd, etc…

Our lives are a reflection of this—a parent-child relationship. We are dependent on a representative parent and a representative child is dependent on us. As a child in the relationship, it’s your choice to honor and respect the parent. As a parent, you have no choice but to honor and respect the child. Thus, we have choices in one direction (child to parent), but no choice in the other (parent to child).

If we think of design in terms of relationships. We can easily control the viewers eyes. But, we can’t be afraid to determine what component is the parent and what is the child. Be bold in your choices and put your components in their roles.

In our lives, we have our roles that we must honor. If we forget our roles, relationships break down, families break down, and organizations and society breaks down—a confusing world. Design is the same way, if hierarchy breaks down, we have something confusing.


Energy and Balance


Often when we design, we seek to manipulate energy and flow. This is achieved by an understanding of how to take control of the user’s eye movements. By skillfully using visual hierarchy, we bring the viewer in with a first read. Once a designer has you in the composition, they will then send you to the second read and on to the third read, etc.. Finally, there’s a call to action.

This flow in visual hierarchy can only happen if there’s a uneven distribution of visual weight. Like the physical world, an uneven distribution creates energy. Think of temperature — energy flows from hot to cold until a balance happens. As designers we purposefully manipulate this visual energy until a balance is achieved — resolution in the mind of the viewer.

As graphic designers, if we can embrace the natural order of the universe by manipulating a viewer’s curious energy and finally providing balance, visual solutions will be more successful. Balance and order is the end result of all things. As humans, we seek resolution. As designers we can take advantage of this natural human quality.