Hierarchy is the ordering of the elements from the most important to the least important. Elements should not compete for the same place in importance unless that tension is essential for the message.
In a publication design, headings, subheadings, paragraphs, and side notes are clearly differentiated with regard to their typeface, size, spacing, color, and so forth. In motion graphics, the primary, secondary, and tertiary elements form the basis of their visual communication (Krasner, 2008).
Several principles can be used to create hierarchy:
- Stepping is the transition between contrasting or opposing elements. It may be big, medium, small. It may be dark, medium, light. It may be a note or a phrase that starts out soft then builds up to be booming. It may be a sequence of actions that leads a reader from one scene to another.
- Size (Big, medium, small) – Repeating an element by varying size
- Value (Dark, medium, light) – Repeating an element by varying value
- Foreground, middle ground, and background – Most naturalistic composition uses two or more of these elements to create depth and to add interest. The focal point is usually in the foreground or the middle ground. Aerial perspective and linear perspective are commonly used to push the background further away by blurring, desaturation, and loss of detail.
- Dominant-Subordinate – Each element needs to be more important than another and less important than another except the focal point or hook which is the most important.
- Krasner, Jon. Motion Graphic Design: Applied History and Aesthetics. Focal Press, 02/2008.
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