Finding the right balance between each element in an illustration, poster or any composition is something that could take hours, even weeks, if you’re dealing with a lot of elements that initially seem like they should be the main focus, so in this guide you’ll found useful tips to help you create a balanced composition that communicates a clear message.
Basic Shapes – Knowing what’s important.
Projects like posters often require incorporation of many different visual elements and pieces of information in a clear and cohesive design. I find it helps to create numbered boxes for each element I’m including and organize them in order of importance. List your elements in order of priority, ending with the complement. Here I have a list example for an event poster design:
- Complementary Background Image or graphic
- Event name / Date
- Sponsors and other Guest.
- Link & Notes
Making a Visual Road
Once you have your list, it’s time to make what I like to call: a Visual Road. It helps the reader find information in the most efficient way and avoid getting lost or confused about your message. By creating strong lines for viewers’ eyes to follow, we can determine the visual path people will take and where we want that path to end. For example:
Having a Visual Road established helps readers see every element easily and even encourages them to keep reading beyond the main headline. If you skip this important step, you risk losing audience attention a few words or images in, or never even capturing it at all. We want readers to follow the message from headline to fine print.
Keep your Visual Road simple. Don’t make readers struggle to find information, and you’ll have success!
Visual weight is a compositional device used to place an appropriate amount of visual emphasis on specific design elements using contrast, size, shape, color, position, etc. After creating your Visual Road, the next step is balancing the visual weight of all the elements together. We already determined the order of importance for each element with the list. Their order in the list will determine the visual weight of each element. The final product should place more emphasis on the most important elements without drowning out the rest of the information, because ultimately it’s all important and we need the audience to understand all of it!
With the use of visual weight, it doesn’t matter if your main focal point is at the top, in the middle, or at the bottom. Its size, color and other design characteristics will give the audience all the cues they need to see it’s the most important piece of information. The reader’s eyes will naturally notice the rest of the information in descending order of visual weight. However, that does not mean you can neglect the overall composition with impunity.
A focal point draws the eye of a viewer to the most important part of the image, the area that you want to highlight. This is the complement that will help your poster or ad stand out from others.
To determine the most harmonious composition, I like to use the rule of thirds. It is often used by photographers and other visual artists to create intriguing, balanced compositions. To use this technique, equally divide your plane with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines to make a grid with 9 spaces. The points of intersection are naturally pleasing places for focal points. Try to place design elements on the lines, rather than in between them for best results.
Using implied lines within the rule of thirds draws the eye all around your composition, giving it a natural visual flow. Use the same method to immediately draw the eye to your chosen focal point and separate other elements in a way that helps the audience find everything easily while creating a visually pleasing, harmonious composition.
Reinforcing focal points
In addition to using implied lines to draw the eye all around a composition, you can use other techniques to reinforce a focal point, giving it even more visual emphasis.
Once a focal point is determined and placed using the rule of thirds, play with the design characteristics of other elements to boost the impact of your focal point. You can blur surrounding objects, manipulate color, and direct implied lines to reinforce the focal point, as in this example.
These tips should help you boost the visual impact of your designs, and ultimately grow your brand. Try them out with your next project and come back to the Jexan blog monthly for more design and marketing tips!