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Graphic Design

What is Hierarchy in Design?

Before we learn more about “What is Hierarchy in Design,” let us be clear about the meaning of hierarchy here. Hierarchy is created as a system where the different members of that particular system are ranked or assessed according to their relative authority or status.

Visual Hierarchy

There is also a hierarchy in design, and people often call it a visual hierarchy. But what is meant by visual hierarchy?

Before we know more about visual hierarchy, we need to know about visual weight. It is thought that every design element in a particular design has a specific weight which is known as visual weight.

Diving Deeper on a Visual Weight

The concept of visual weight allows designers to develop a particular design according to the design’s symmetry, balance, and visual hierarchy.

Visual weight focuses on a single element of a design: a logo or any other identity with a specific weight. The element’s weight depends solely on the type of item we are dealing with.

I know it is a bit complicated to grasp but bear with me for a second, and I will clarify it in the following lines. For example, some elements take up more space on the screen, while others take up less space.

different elements on screen making a visual weight

So, when you see some visual elements that take up less space, those have less visible weight. The parts that take up more space have a more substantial visual weight, which is what visual weight is all about.

It is a way for us to judge how much heavier a particular element is to our eyes to take measured steps to create the best possible design available. Visual weight depends not only on the space occupied by a component but also on the balance and symmetry of an element.

Balance in Graphic Design

Balance in design matters as much as the visual weight of the elements. You can think of balance as an even distribution of space for all the parts and objects related to your design. You want each of your design elements to be spaced in the way that looks best.

This spacing of elements is known as balance. So, balance refers to spacing your components in the best way possible so that your final design has the best possible outcome.

Use of Symmetry in Design

Another thing necessary for your design to look its best is symmetry.

Now, I bet when you hear the word symmetry, you are thinking inside that head of yours, “What does symmetry has to do with graphic design?” Well, I am about to blow your mind right now.

photography of a building in a perfect symmetry

Symmetry is when the elements in your design or the objects in that particular design are mirrored.

Just think about it, like taking a knife and cutting your graphic design in half. The objects on both sides of the graphic design have to be the same, and well, they don’t necessarily have to be identical.

But right now, for clarity, think of it in this way, and I will further touch on this topic later.

The line of symmetry does not always have to be through the center of your design. You are the designer of your graphic designs, and you decide where the symmetry line for your graphic design has to be.

But make sure the elements and the objects on either side of the symmetry line mirror each other.

black and gold coffee capsules

Sometimes, you might choose to ignore your graphic design’s balance and symmetry. Still, all of this comes with experience. Suppose you are experienced and skilled enough to do those things without jeopardizing your final design. In that case, you are more than welcome to do those things.

These are just some guidelines that I have laid down, so it is easier for you guys to make an excellent graphic design.

Some other factors also affect visual weight in your graphic design. They are mentioned below:


The color of your design plays a massive role in deciding the visual weight for your design. Different colors have different visual significances. Particular colors will appear heavier than some other colors, and other colors will make your design look lighter.

For example, you decide to go with red as the primary color for your design. You fill different elements of your design with red. That particular design of yours will have a lot of visual weight.

color frames

But if you used yellow instead of red in your design, you would have designed a much lighter visual weight. Now, if the design you are making demands a lot of visual weight to serve its purpose, I suggest you go with colors that demand a lot of visual weight.

On the contrary, if the design you are working with needs to look light to serve its purpose, I suggest you choose some colors that will make it look lighter. In that case, you should go with colors that have a lighter visual weight, like yellow.


The contrast of your graphic design also contributes to the visual weight of your composition. Think about it like this: You are in an auditorium, and a person gives a speech onstage. All the lights are dimmed, except the spotlight on the person giving the speech.

There is a focus light on the person who is giving the speech, and the reason for this is that you want that person to stand out from the rest, and contrast does just that. It helps you focus on the elements that need to stand out in your design.

contrast - different items on a black and white background

Just like the guy in the auditorium who is the object of your attention and is being highlighted with all the lights on him, you will use the same technique to highlight the main elements of your design.

In that way, the contrast has an enormous role in the visual weight of your design.

Now that we have covered everything related to visual weight, we can now understand more about hierarchy in graphic design.

Closer Look on: What is Hierarchy in Design?

Hierarchy in design has the same purpose as most other hierarchies we know. It serves the same meaning as any different hierarchy. In that case, you will focus more on the more essential elements of your design.

The elements that are more important to your design will be prioritized. They will be highlighted more, and the design will be created to get the viewer’s attention to those elements first.

Think about it like this; you have a very successful business and want a logo with your slogan. Your primary goal is that your motto stands out in the new logo design. The logo has to be designed so that your slogan stands out and catches the viewer’s eye.

nike logo with slogan

So, how are you going to make that happen? You need to have design elements that compliment your slogan in your logo. The visual weight of those elements cannot be more than your primary part, your slogan.

If any other elements rather than your slogan have more visual weight, your motto will not stand out as much.

This is what hierarchy in design stands for. In other words, you will need to prioritize the main characters of your design and make sure they stand out in your design. I hope now you have a clear idea about what a hierarchy in design is all about.

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