Establishing Visual Hierarchy

A random colorful blog post manages to catch your attention during a casual internet browsing session. Upon closer inspection, the blog post’s information makes no sense, with no proper beginning or end.

There is meaningful data on the screen, yet it fails to impact you, besides the color contrast. What exactly do you think happened here? What did the design lack that it could not express its intent?

This is where visual hierarchy plays a crucial role in expressing or communicating the design’s actual content and intent.

If you have the luxury of collaborative design, different parts of the hierarchy can be divided up for different people to focus on.

Significance of Visual Hierarchy in Design Perception

The otherwise ordinary blog post offers one main takeaway from all the other things it does not. It conveys the effect of the implementation of visual hierarchy in delivering control over the visual experience.

If you had a hard time understanding where to focus your attention, then the fault lies with the design layout. The only appealing aspect of the blog post was its clutter of information on a colorful background.

Often, we keep adding multiple design elements to garner attention, thinking each is necessary to convey specific intent. The issue with this approach to designing is the inclusion of every important detail, becoming equally meaningful simultaneously.

With every aspect of the design screaming for attention, the result is a scattered outlook that fails to communicate its primary objective.

A Step-By-Step Guide to Understanding the Visual Hierarchy

Creation of The Interface Hierarchy

Any standard blog layout or the primary design interface consists of the main sections arranged to form a visual guide. These prime sections may include more metadata according to the theme but are typically the foundation for building the visual design.

  • Header: The start of a blog is what the header represents. It could either be a simple or a striking title and logo. Also, quick navigation tips are given in the same header flow.

(Source : Google Images)

  • Main content area: This section lies to the left, below the main header. All the necessary blog information and extra metadata get placed here.
  • Sidebar: This section typically appears on the right side of the main content area, containing various categories of related information. You can have the list of related blog posts detailed here, or a call to action to subscribe, and a website search box.
  • Footer: The footer lies at the bottom of the layout, including all contact information, additional website information, and the copyright notice.

Expression of Appropriate Hierarchy

All the primary sections have equal importance if you view them separately. However, is visualizing these sections equally an ideal choice when creating a visual hierarchy?

It is essential to bear in mind the main objective of incorporating visual hierarchy. You need to determine which section has more value in comparison. The visual hierarchy gives you a standard of definition of the impact of each piece of information you use in your content.

Unfortunately, defining one section’s exact importance over the other gets complicated, depending on the user situation. In a few blog contents, emphasizing the metadata makes more sense due to the target audience. Other times, you want the main header to stand out for quick-attention to the short content.

In the end, creating an appropriate hierarchy requires careful consideration of potent visual representation and expression.

How Do You Optimally Express the Visual Hierarchy?

Gaining control over your design layout, thereby visual hierarchy, requires isolated practice to get the hang of the process. Perusing various blog contents will give you a few ideas of factors that determine the relationship between information sections.

A few evident factors include font size, contrast, ornamentation, and abstract alignment. But other factors like white space and visual-weight are less conspicuous.

Avoiding Clutter to Craft A Delicate Yet Impactful Visual Hierarchy

Sometimes, when we want to gain a considerable reach, we end up using every trick in the book to convey the same. The content gets packed with color contrast, font sizes, highlighting, and so much more, all at once!

This visually-heavy design only serves to backfire on your intent instead, appearing cluttered in one section. So, how do you strike a balance between figuring out which piece of information requires more backing and which does not?

The Concept of White Space as The First Step to Avoid Design Clutter

More commonly prevalent as the negative space, white space is merely the space between every character on the page. It is one of the most underrated tools in a designer’s arsenal.

  • White space allows viewers to take a break from all the information load.
  • The negative space eases the visual aspect and guides it towards the most vital element of your choice.
  • In addition to enhancing the page structure and general aesthetics of the content page, white space simplifies the user experience.
  • The need for ornamentation by utilizing dark rule lines to guide and present information to a viewer drastically reduces.

For example, the default tables that every program allows a user to create. The tables contain rows and columns separated by rule lines that provide a guided connection between information pieces.

When you remove all the default rule lines, you will be left with a fully functional table, oriented by white space. A crisp alignment of the columns allows for a better visual connection from the viewer’s perspective enabling effective intent communication.

Grid Utilization to Manage White Space for A Cleaner Visual Hierarchy

It is essential to understand the placement of all your primary sections while striking a balance using white space. Here is a simple example of driving home the basics of how a grid can help you curate an optimal visual hierarchy.

  • Consider a 3:4 rectangle as the live area for your content post.
  • Now add another 3:4 rectangle, but scaled down, within the big rectangle. A vertical line runs in the scaled-down rectangle, dividing it into smaller left and larger right sections.
  • You will be using a single font in the same size to write all content on the blog post.
  • The only tools you will utilize are white space and alignment to experiment with the visual hierarchy balance.
  • The main heading is in all caps with space between the characters, situated on the content area’s top left. This positioning is ideal since it serves as the entry point for your view.
  • The author’s name sits below the title, in the usual format.
  • All the metadata gets grouped in the top-right corner, just beside the main title. This information positioning implies a direct association with the title.
  • The content’s body sits aligned almost in the center, with the vertical line in the scaled-down rectangle. It is a simple paragraph of information, forming a mass, yet surrounded by adequate white space.
  • You will have a link at the bottom right corner, cognitively guiding viewers to understand where the additional information is located.

The blog post’s content is situated in its grouping yet stands out due to the invisible white space alignment. It makes viewing easier since it is easy to understand the most crucial aspect of the content and what is secondary.

Additional Factors of Visual Hierarchy

The page structure of any online content is essential to impress and persuade visitors to invest in the services. A visual hierarchy rich structure is more effective than merely structuring the blog as per the changing trends.

Here are a few more prevalent visual hierarchy factors that will help provide readers with the right visual cues.

(Source : Google Images)

  • 4-column grids: The evenly-oriented 4-column grid is different from the traditional asymmetric grids. They furnish more versatility in terms of mixing-and-matching the main section placements as per the content requirements. Also, the differentiation of information has more room for development with more columns in the content grids.
  • Font weight: In a blog of the content of a single font, merely bolding the main title and the body will show evident differentiation. In addition to adding a visual richness, font-weight connects the title to the body content.
  • Font size: You can play around with the font size, emphasizing the main content of your blog with an enlarged size. When one section gets an increased font size, the effect overpowers the other informational pieces. So, even though the metadata gets placed above the highlighted title, it is the enlarged title that steals the attention.
  • Scaling the font-size: This technique is an impactful tool when creating contrasting information for a visual appeal.
  • Combining size and weight: In this method, the main title gets dynamically bolder than the other sections. The difference in visual-weight becomes glaringly evident, yet not as overpowering. This effect is due to a subtle balance in the white space and alignment.
  • Color inclusion: Try starting with just a hint of color in your blog post. Allow the main title to be in a standout color like red or yellow, with the body content in a larger font. So, even though you have utilized only a hint of color, the title stands out more than the enlarged body.

Final Thoughts

You do not have to be a professional to master the principles of visual hierarchy. All you need is a solid foundation in the form of a design toolbox. Visual hierarchy involves experimenting with the resources in your design toolbox. From the spacing to the color and contrast, these principles require careful prioritizing and organizing.

Keep this in mind: visual hierarchy demands that some elements get accentuated while the others get subdued.

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