If Everything Is Bold, Nothing Is Bold.
Hierarchy. It’s a word that you’ve undoubtedly heard, but have you ever taken a moment to stop and think about what it actually is, how it’s achieved and why it’s important? From a creative standpoint, hierarchy is one of the core elements of design, which basically means the order of information importance. Often times, we in the creative department find that bits of information we consider less important in an initial design are revised within the process of client approval to become more important, completely changing the hierarchy established at the beginning of a project. I’m here to tell you how hierarchy is established, why it’s important and how we achieve it.
Hierarchy is Natural
Our eyes are trained to respond to hierarchy completely naturally and subconsciously. It’s a lot like reading left to right– you know to do it and do it without a second thought. Good design should resonate in the same way. Your eye should move naturally from the most important item to the second and then to the third. A tip I learned in school is to assign your elements a number 1 through X (where X is the total number of elements) based on the order of importance. A number cannot be used more than once and every number should be used. When it comes to design, make sure the eye naturally moves from number one to two and all the way down the line.
Methods for Achieving Hierarchy
We have several methods for dictating hierarchy. Most are pretty obvious. If something is larger, bolder or darker than other elements, it will probably be looked at first. Conversely, if something is small, light and low-contrast, it will be one of the last things the eye sees. The trick is to remember to utilize both sets of aesthetics so that there’s a natural progression through the page. Remember to number your elements! I will usually start with stylizing the most prominent item (usually the title or graphic) and work my way down the list, ending with company logo, contact info, store hours and fine print if there is any.
Advertisers only have a fraction of a second to engage their audience, so it’s important to make sure they’re taking the right information away. Establishing hierarchy is one of the most subtle, yet effective, elements of good design and with practice, can (and should) become second nature to anybody developing a visual piece – traditional or digital.