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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

In design, there is also a hierarchy. 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 accordingly to the symmetry, balance and visual hierarchy of the design.

Visual weight focuses on a single element of a design which could be a logo or any other identity with a specific weight to it. The weight of the element 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 make it clear in the next few lines. For example, you have some elements that 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 which take up less space those are elements which have less visible weight. The elements which take up more space have a more substantial visual weight, and this 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 so that we can take measured steps to create the best possible design available. Visual weight not only depends on the space occupied by an element but it also depends 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 elements and objects that are 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 elements in the best way possible so that your final design has the best possible outcome.

Use of Symmetry in Design

Another thing that is 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 of yours 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. 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 are mirroring each other.

black and gold coffee capsules

Sometimes you might choose to ignore the balance and the symmetry of your graphic design but all of this comes with experience, and if you are experienced and skilled enough to do those things without jeopardizing your final design then you are more than welcome to do those things.

These are just some guidelines that I have lain 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 huge role in deciding the visual weight for your design. Different colors have different visual weight. Particular colors will appear heavier than some other colors, and other colors will make your design look lighter.

For example, you are deciding to go with red as the primary color for your design, and 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, then 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 then I would 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 then I would 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 design. Think about it like this: You are in an auditorium, and a person is giving a speech onstage. All the lights are dimmed, except the spotlight on the person who is 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 being on him, you will use the same technique in your design to highlight the main elements of your design.

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

Now that we have covered everything related to visual weight, we can now carry on to 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 kinds of hierarchies we are aware of. It serves the same meaning as any other hierarchy as you will focus more on the elements that are more important to 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 in such a way that the viewer’s attention goes to those elements first.

Think about it like this; you have a very successful business, and you want a logo with your slogan. Your primary goal is that your slogan stands out in the new logo design. Now, the logo has to be designed in such a way that your slogan stands out, and it catches the eye of the viewer.

nike logo with slogan

So, how are you going to make that happen? You need to have design elements that complement your slogan in your logo, and 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, then your slogan 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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