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    Design principles: Master compositional flow and rhythm - Janie Kliever

    We here at Next Level Design love being able to learn from other disciplines and interfaces, and apply them to game design and level design. We hope you'll find something within this article that you can use in your own designs.  If you do, please share by commenting below.  Happy learning!

     

    *Note: The following is a portion of an article which was shared on canva.com. It capture some of the main points, but there are detailed examples provided within the source article which are not included here.  Please follow the link at the end for the full article. 

     

     

    As consumers of design, we’ve all likely experienced this scenario at some point. But as designers, we want to make sure we’re not creating design layouts that might cause viewers to hurry to hit that back button in their browser or trash a flyer in frustration.

     

    So what’s the key to a design that’s well organized and easy to navigate? Starting with the foundation of a strong composition and good flow will get your project on the right track.

     

     

    Composition: A Definition for Designers

    1.png.f861e90cd3343ce306e6b6e9a9cd3eb5.png

     

    Composition refers to the way all the elements of your design are arranged to create a cohesive whole. It considers actual elements you might add to a design, like typography, photos, or graphics — but it also takes into account “invisible” elements that contribute to the overall visual effect of a layout, like white or blank space, alignment and margins, or any framework you might use to arrange your design (such as a grid, the golden ratio, or the rule of thirds). A careful composition should visually lead viewers through the design in a way that makes sense and happens naturally without a lot of thought on the part of the viewer (otherwise known as “flow”).

     

    This act of composing, of being thoughtful and intentional about how you piece together a layout, is a skill that applies to many different types of visual arts, from painting to photography. The nice thing is that once you learn the basics of strong composition, you’ll find that they’re useful for all sorts of creative endeavors.

    Now let’s look at some of the tools and techniques traditionally used to create effective, visually engaging compositions.

     

     

    Visual Weight & Balance: Create a Clear Hierarchy

    A good composition isn’t just a neatly arranged collection of shapes, colors, and text. Every design has a purpose and communicates a message to its viewers, and a well-planned composition helps prioritize the design’s most important information and reinforce its message in a way that makes sense. This process of arranging information by its importance is often referred to as establishing a hierarchy. No hierarchy (or an inadequate one) makes for a confusing design that has no visual flow, and we don’t want that. Let’s look at two key elements of a clear hierarchy, focal points and balanced organization:

     

    Choose a Focal Point

    A focal point pulls people into your design and gives them a place to start looking at your composition. If viewers only had a couple seconds to glance at your design and take away one impression or piece of information, what would that be? That important element should be your main focal point, and to ensure it’s what people see first, you’ll want to find a way to emphasize that piece and make it the most visible part of the layout.

     

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    Keep reading to see this concept at work in actual design projects. (Via Dribbble. Design by Mara Dawn Dockery.)

    How to do that? Through giving your focal point visual weight. When a design element has visual weight, it’s what stands out the most at first glance. It’s visually “heavy” because it makes its presence felt in the layout — you can immediately tell that it’s important, and it attracts your attention through something about its appearance, often by contrasting with the rest of the design. There are a lot of techniques to choose from to give your focal point visual weight, including but not limited to:

    • Size
    • Shape
    • Color
    • Texture
    • Position

     

    Let’s walk through some examples: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article

    • Make It Big
    • Attract Attention with Unusual Shapes
    • Choose Stand-Out Colors
    • Add Texture for Visual Interest
    • Position for Maximum Visual Impact

     

    Balance and Organize the Rest of the Design

    After a focal point gives viewers an entrance into your design, then it needs to be organized in such a way that they can navigate the rest of the layout easily. This is where the hierarchy really comes into play to give viewers a clear pathway to travel through the composition. Should their eyes move down the page? Across? From one section to another?

     

    How the rest of the design flows from the focal point will be key to a successful composition. You can guide viewers through your layout with some of the techniques we’ve already discussed, but most designs will benefit from an overall structure or organizing principle. Instead of just randomly throwing elements into your design and hoping it turn outs ok, being thoughtful and intentional about building your composition will always create a more usable and visually appealing experience for your audience.

     

    Let’s look at some common techniques: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article

    Use a Grid

    Try the “Rule of Thirds”

    Consider Symmetry

    Leave Some White Space

     

     

    Leading Lines: Create Movement to Lead the Eye

    Leading lines are literal or implied lines that lead viewers’ eyes where you want them to go — usually to the focal point of your design, but sometimes just from one section or element of the layout to another. Leading lines can take a number of different forms, including:

     

    Diagonal Lines

    Diagonal lines create movement or imply direction across the design, often from top to bottom and left to right, like with reading.

    Another common technique is to use two diagonal lines coming from opposite directions to direct users’ focus to a single point. If you’ve ever taken an art class during your school days, a common exercise is to draw a road or pathway extending into the distance: two diagonal lines coming from opposite directions, starting out wide but narrowing until they meet at a spot on the horizon known as the “vanishing point.” This is diagonal leading lines in action, and one of the most basic ways to create depth and perspective in a composition.

     

    The following website design uses this concept to organize its product image gallery. Notice how the diagonal lines created by the yellow shape in the background (along with selective blurring) create a sense of depth in the design.

     

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    Via Dribbble. Design by Cosmin Capitanu

     

    Z Shapes & S CurvesFollow the link at the end to read these sections of the article

     

    Repeating Lines and Patterns

    Repetition can act as a leading line, guiding your gaze in a certain direction. It may take the form of repeating lines, shapes, or other elements arranged in a directional way. Repetition can also be a great way to reinforce a visual theme and add a sense of rhythm to your design. Even in-text elements that repeat, like bullet points or numbered lists, can help organize a design and give it a sense of flow.

     

    The following magazine layout repeats a visual theme of diagonal lines and triangular shapes in two ways: on individual pages or spreads (to guide readers through the content) and throughout the issue (to create consistency and a sense of rhythm through the whole publication).  

     

    *Note: Click on the Image for a larger version

    4.thumb.png.6f9af4f8eba7671e76183ff16d7e631b.png

    Via Behance. Design by Bartosz Kwiecień.

     

    The Human Gaze: Follow the link at the end to read these sections of the article

    Learning some effective techniques for composing designs can really help level up your projects in terms of both aesthetics and function. We hope this introduction to some of the design principles of good composition will prove useful. As always, happy designing!

     

     

    Over to You

    Learning some effective techniques for composing designs can really help level up your projects in terms of both aesthetics and function. We hope this introduction to some of the design principles of good composition will prove useful. As always, happy designing!

     

    Read the full article here: https://www.canva.com/learn/flow-and-rhythm/

     

     

    Follow Janie

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/janiecreates

    Website: https://janiekliever.com/

     

    Follow Next Level Design

    Join the Forum: http://www.nextleveldesign.org/index.php?/register/

    Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NextLevelDesig2

    Discuss on Discord: https://discord.gg/RqEy7rg

     


    Article Preview: The fundamentals of design can be applied to many disciplines. This article, written as a guide for graphic designers, functions very well as a guide to game design and level design, introducing the topics in the title along with balance, flow, etc.


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