Even if you’re not a graphic design whiz, you probably have an idea of what hierarchy is. A visual hierarchy is a design structure in which elements are presented according to their importance. Hierarchies are critical in design to help navigate the viewers eyes and convey the correct message. Check out a few practices below for utilizing visual hierarchy in design.
Pick a focal point
What’s the thing you want viewers to see first? It could be a photo, headline, a logo – regardless, it should be your most dominant element. A design with too many competing elements will distract your viewer and detract from your message, so use principles such as negative space, scale, and contrast to give the appropriate weight to your focal point. Sometimes focal points are literally the topmost element, but they can be anywhere on a page or design.
Aim for three levels of text
Many good graphic designs have text with three hierarchical levels.
Level-one text is the most prominent. On a business card it could be your company name or your own name. It’s normally the largest typographic element.
Level-two text is critical in navigation. It provides a sense of cohesiveness and does not overpower level-one text. On a business card, if your level-one text is your company name, level two is normally your name and job title as well as your most important contact information.
Level-three text is everything else. In business card design, it could be the rest of your contact information, your business’s URL, or icons conveying its social presence.
In general, think of the three levels as headline, subheadline and body copy. Use bullet points and negative space, among other elements, to break up text-heavy body copy and aid in readability.