Principle of Hierarchy


The order in which the elements within a composition are viewed by the eye. We can called it the order of importance –

  • where does the eye look at First
  • where does the eye look at Second
  • Where does the eye look at Third  

*NOTE: keep in mind that visual hierarchy is evident in most VC’s the key is for you to be specific and able to describe the effect it has on the viewer.

How is visual hierarchy evident?

what elements & principles are creating the visual hierarchy? is it:

  • Contrast
  • Scale
  • Proportion
  • Textures
  • ETC

Ask yourself is their a strategic reason to the in order given to the VC?

  1. Perhaps a website address is made the focal point so that consumers can visit 
  2. A fashion dress in a magazine so that viewers can be enticed to make a purchase
  3. A Real-estate sign promoting the sale of a property – photographs are purposely made the focal point to showcase property & entice potential buyers 

The elements within a composition can be ordered according to their importance.

A hierarchy may be determined by the scale, colour or placement and arrangement of elements in a composition.

bright-red colour may be used in a primarily black and- white design to create a focal point.

A poster that promotes a new movie may use imagery to attract a target audience and the text may be designated according to visual importance (what the target audience needs to interpret first).

Hierarchy by Placement

An object placed in the center will often be perceived as a focal point. If all eyes in the painting look at one object, or if an object is placed at the center of the lines of perspective, that object will be perceived as the focus of the work.

Hierarchy by Isolation

If most of the elements in a work of art are grouped closely together, an object by itself stands out as a focal point

Hierarchy by Contrast

Emphasis can be created by contrast. An element in contrast with something else is more easily seen and understood; something different attracts the eye.

Any of the elements can be contrasted:

  • line (a curve in the midst of straight lines), shape (a circle in a field of squares)
  • color (one red dot on a background of grays and blacks)
  • Tone (a light or dark area in the middle of its opposite)
  • texture (rough vs. smooth)
  • Contrast can also be created by contrasting orientation in space (horizontal, vertical, diagonal)
  • Shape (a geometric shape in an otherwise naturalistic image) and size.
  • An anomaly, or something that departs from the norm, will also stand out and grab our attention, for example a person wearing a snowsuit on a tropical beach.

Hierarchy design examples: CokeRedD18_18_830x544 contrast Desire Me dontdrivesleepy_crash1_PExdv_28802 dubbed hungerad1 images (1) images Iron man 2 next_best_bison p067_the_polyphonic_spree poster_design sound_small ben_nov_runningmanshadow 23862e0f3132425ci3.jpg beckan


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