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6 Principles of Visual Hierarchy You Must Know

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People often think that design sprung into existence during the Industrial Revolution but did you know that it came into the palms of existence when prehistoric humans created art and design by firelight? We didn’t know either. 

Stones were incised with designs about 15,000 years ago. It was like throwing stones into the air that landed in the water, leaving many ripples behind. The same ripples that, in some way, gave way to modern design. 

Essentially, the real purpose of design hasn’t changed which is to communicate important ideas and messages. In this article, we’re going to take a look at what visual hierarchy means and the 6 principles of Visual Hierarchy you must know.

What is Visual Hierarchy

Well, it’s a daily term that designers use and is one of the design principles that explain how you should arrange elements in the design. It’s helpful especially to designers and developers because it lays out a logical mannerism to each element. This makes your design to be easily understood. 

The reason why visual hierarchy is important is that it’s key in information architecture, another designer term that you shouldn’t be afraid of. It sets up a clear path for the user’s attention by organizing elements from most important to least. 

With a good visual hierarchy, the user’s eye is automatically directed to the order of viewing elements inside a design. They don’t have to look for a map or guidance on how to consume design. 

Visual Hierarchy Principles

Every element of visual design has a characteristic that defines its importance and the visual weight associated with it. A general rule of visual hierarchy is that the element with the most visual weight grabs the most user attention. Let’s see what are the principles of visual hierarchy. 


Looooong banana Store – Ecommerce by Shojol Islam for Flatastic on Dribbble

People notice the biggest objects first, even we do. This is why in the structure of a webpage H1 is the largest, H2 smaller than that, and H3, H4 smallest. According to Fitt’s Law, large interactions are easier to digest because users don’t have to spend a lot of time and energy from their attention economy.

Size doesn’t matter by Couple In The Shuttle on Dribbble

As someone once said, bigger is better, large elements of your design are what’s most noticeable and they carry the strongest message. 

Color and Contrast

Dark Side of the Jungle by Desire Creative Agency on Dribbble

The best trick up a designer’s sleeve is the color palettes they use in a design element. Bold and contrasting colors incite attention and emphasize a point. CTA buttons, error messages, prompts, and pop-ups stand out if you choose the right color.

Daily Doodle Art – Dawning Lights by Angie Mathot on Dribbble

Duo-tones have been trending and increasing in popularity for a while because of this. The color principle of visual hierarchy can help you create rhythm and balance in your creations.

Victoria by Jean-Michel Perchet on Dribbble

However, if you end up using too many, it could make your work appear unorganized and cause cognitive overload. 


Ad by 1 Point Size

Alignment is fundamental when designing a web page because it creates order and gives you hints about where everything should be. Good alignment can help elements feel associated with each other and content that is similar also benefits from alignment.

Design by Home Street Home

If we imagine a table of data from Microsoft Excel and remove the borders, our brain can still associate the columns and rows because of the alignment present in the data. 


Ad by DDB

Alignment is super, but proximity is super duper. Although they may seem similar, according to the principle of proximity if you place elements close to each other it can compel the reader to think that they are related. 

In doing so, many genius designers leverage the power of a good headline and attach other text to it. This results in an increase of attention toward the later attached elements. 


#Exploration – Editorial Design – 03 by Dwinawan on Dribbble

Rooms with more space feel nicer, right? That’s what whitespace does for the visual hierarchy in the design. More room to breathe or more space around an element will make it stand out, resulting in more attraction toward the element. This is probably why people often say to use good whitespace around your CTAs.

Texture and Style

The Journal of Wild Mushrooming Header Website by Dhefry Andirezha on Dribbble

Textures and styles are different than the other visual hierarchy principles because they focus on the decorative property of your design. Regardless of textures being usually associated with aesthetics, they affect the visual hierarchy of your design. They can make or break it. 

If you add texture the right way, then you can draw your user’s attention to where you place that texture.

Confetti Design Studio is an award winning creative design firm based in India. We work with companies around the world by providing them premium design solutions ranging from product design, web design & graphic design. Contact us right now so we can get started on your amazing idea and project.

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