Visual Hierarchy Painting
Week 2 – Project
The Prompt
Construct a hierarchical composition using shapes. You may use pre-existing image sources (magazines, books, photographs, etc) for the work and/or create your own.
How is Hierarchy used in art and design?
1. Use Size to Enhance (or Reduce) Visibility
The text 'Danubia' is the largest element on this book cover design, making the title of the book immediately clear.
2. Color and Contrast: Direct Attention
While the largest element in this poster is the illustration, the use of the color red brings your attention to the words "Power & Equality". (Using color sparingly and with purpose are key principles here)
In terms of color and contact, value and differences in value are crucial in generating hierarchy.
3. Spacing: Give Your Layout Balance, Flow, and Focus
Giving the viewer’s eyes a place to rest and a path to travel through the design.
Separating your layout into sections (the flip side of this is proximity — reducing space to place related items closer together — also an aspect of good spacing)
6. Composition: Give Your Composition Structure

Rembrandt, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632

Following the rule of thirds is one way of creating a dynamic composition where your focal point isn’t predictably placed at the center. (You can also following the rule of odds to establish hierarchy.)
Central composition, with 3 larger objects grouped together with three moving lines of textural elements.
Central composition, with 3 larger objects grouped together with three moving lines of textural elements.
One element in the center, flanked by groups of two items vertically and horizontally.
One element in the center, flanked by groups of two items vertically and horizontally.
Final notes
While these 'rules' are here to help you formulate the best way to establish hierarchy, don't feel bound by the rules. Use it to compliment your work and learn when to use and not to use it.
Supplies you'll need:
Found magazines and other print material, Pencil and eraser, x-acto knife or scissors, tracing paper, ruler, and gouache paints.
We'll be using tracing paper to trace elements from your sources on separate pieces of tracing paper, building an archive of source images to pull from.
Using those elements, create a composition that you trace onto a single larger sheet of tracing paper. You are encouraged to crop, overlap, confuse, invent from your sources. It’s ok to change the scale of your archive images (Xerox up or down).
Avoid being too literal, cliché, centering ‘subjects’ or using whole images from found sources.
A hierarchical composition is where the viewer can identify some items as more important than others; in a way, you are guiding the viewer in how to see and move through your image.
Assignments! (Due Tuesday!)

- Finish your painting.
Photograph and Upload - Photograph your Visual Hierarchy Painting and upload to google docs.