A good designer will follow a few rules or standards in order to make sure the composition is pleasing to the eye and presents the right message.
The most important piece of any composition is the focus of the design. The central feature or purpose which should be easily recognizable instantly upon seeing the piece. If you are trying to rent out your beach front property to an audience of sun-bathing bevvies, it is a good idea to make sure the BEACH is obvious and you haven’t created a poster highlighting a long, windy driveway.
You can use size, color and/or depth to help you call attention to your focus, among other creative techniques.
Related to, but different from, the focus is a hierarchy of importance. Sometimes the most important thing in your design is also the focus, but sometimes you want viewers to see the overall image before you tell them what you want them to take away from it. The hierarchy is the presentation of information, from most to least importance. As a general rule, especially in marketing pieces, this is accomplished through headlines, subheadings, body content, and footnotes, with the most important information being the biggest, boldest and most attention grabbing, and the least important being the smallest and least obvious information.
Every effective composition will have a pleasing balance. To understand more about this important aspect of the design process, please reference my previous post – B is for Balance.
Another important requirement of a good design composition is direction. Most western cultures are taught to “read” from left to right, and even when viewing non-text materials, our eyes naturally follow that pattern. An image or a design, however, doesn’t always follow this pattern. Bringing in elements to guide your audience through the visual process you would like them to take becomes very important
Whether you use color and lighting to call attention to certain areas of a photograph, or you use directional graphics to tell a story – infographics are a great example of this technique! – it is the job of the designer to make sure the viewer is directed appropriately.
There are, of course, many more factors that influence and affect the composition of a design – color, contrast, alignment, cohesiveness, and more – but I generally find that if you have a good handle on these four the rest will usually fall into place.
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