What Is Visual Hierarchy?

What Is Visual Hierarchy?

Visual hierarchy is the term used by designers to describe the arrangement of different elements in a design layout. It is based on the principles of three-dimensional space.

The arrangement of design elements can have an impact on the reader or viewer and this impact can be amplified or diminished depending on where these are placed with other design elements.

The purpose of visual hierarchy is to provide a framework for decision-making about what aspects should be emphasized, emphasized, and summarized through visual presentations.

Hierarchical structures are often hierarchical because they involve relationships between entities, as opposed to being sequential structures such as lists that rely more upon position than relationship.

Building Blocks of Visual Hierarchy

Visual Hierarchy is built upon the following concepts:


Large objects are considered to be higher in the hierarchy than small objects. This approach is often referred to as the 'bigger is the better rule, and it can be represented by a scale of size from 1 to 10 (10 being the largest).


Objects that are fixed or stationary within their environment are considered to be higher in the hierarchy than objects that have a dynamic aspect, such as a moving or changing context.

In addition, moving objects are usually treated as lower in the hierarchy than stationary objects because they imply greater movement. The same object may be equal in size but may be considered less important if it is dynamic.


As a general rule objects that are more complex and require more effort to understand are higher in the hierarchy.

This is because their form has more to be understood, and these objects may then take up more space on the page, thus making other less complex forms look smaller in comparison.


Contained objects may have an impact on their surroundings, for example, if they are symmetrical or imply a relationship with other objects. For this reason, they are often considered higher in the hierarchy than non-contained elements.



Aligned objects appear to interact with others as they align themselves either vertically or horizontally within the environment (for example letters placed next to each other horizontally). Aligned objects are also often seen as higher in the hierarchy than non-aligned objects, for this is considered an act of communication.


Repetition is the action of placing multiple identical objects together in a layout. The repetition of objects is considered higher in the hierarchy than non-repeating objects.


Color can sometimes be used to differentiate elements within a composition, for example through the use of different colored fonts or shapes and lines. As such, it can determine an object's place in a hierarchy.

For instance, red is generally considered a more important color than green as it is associated with danger (and so commands greater attention), whereas green represents safety and thus does not attract as much attention to itself (i.e., it has lower status).

How to Craft a Strong Visual Hierarchy

The following factors are generally considered in the development of a visual hierarchy:

Mandala - Inspirational Art Quotes - DOWNLOADABLE DESIGNS

Research Your Users

It is important to research your users and understand who they are and what their preferences are.

For example, one user may be more interested in the function of the product than its design, whereas another user may be very design focused. Understanding who your users are will help you choose the appropriate approach for your visual hierarchy.

Study Design Competitors

You will need to observe competitors to get a sense of how these different elements play out within their designs.

Doing so will enable you to create a more attractive design based on what has worked in the past rather than trying something completely new and untested.

Study Small Details

There is nothing more important than your layout details. Often, all the other factors will not matter, if the placement of these details is not correct.

Consider the Size, Position, and Complexity of Elements

Take note of the size, position, and complexity of elements to determine the best hierarchy for these elements concerning each other. This will allow your design to have a clean and professional layout that conveys the message you have intended it to convey.

Define What is Important to You

You must decide what is important to you as a designer; whether it is function or form. A lot of designers tend to follow the trend to the detriment of the quality of their design layout.

Both functional and aesthetic layouts are important in a design, with each having different benefits to offer. However, if your layouts are not functioning well functionally, it will reflect on your design. 

Consider How You Will Use Your Design

After you have drafted all your content information, it is time to consider how you will use this layout; whether it be in print or online.

A lot of designers tend to use a very simple visual hierarchy but end up limiting themselves as they are not aware of the intended audience or their target keyword.

The Importance of Visual Hierarchy

Visual Hierarchy is extremely important in the layout of a design, as it is the first thing that people see when they look at your design. Therefore, it is essential to consider how you can use visual hierarchy effectively in your designs. It is also important to ensure that none of the elements are placed in such a way that it looks unorganized, thus not making sense.

For example, there are very nice-looking designs where some elements are larger than others and where there is a horizontal alignment of elements but nothing makes sense or aligns with each other.

While many people use visual hierarchy as an aspect of design; this must be used properly and with caution. Not using a visual hierarchy can have disastrous results. For example, having large and small elements in the same design without order will make the document look unprofessional and unorganized.

While some designers may prefer to have a least-noticeable approach to their design; we think that it is better to have a clean and organized design layout.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Turn Your Art Into Income