What is Composition in Design?

Without a great composition, your detailed illustrations and design work will fall flat. So what is composition in design? Like any other art form, composition is the placement of various elements to create a more effective whole. This is equally important for graphic design, photography, and music. Below, we'll focus on a few strategies to arrange your design work into a more pleasing composition.   

Find the Focal Point

In every successful composition, there needs to be a clearly defined subject that viewers can locate right away. What's the focal point of your website, poster, or infographic? Design is about communicating ideas and feelings, and you don't want the power of your message to be diluted with confusing elements. Once you've chosen a subject, you can accentuate it as the focal point of your work, using scale, leading lines, and many other techniques.    

Establish a Visual Hierarchy

After determining your focal point, you can create a hierarchy of the remaining visual elements, in order of importance. If you look at the front page of a newspaper, the most important stories are positioned at the top, and the headlines are printed in a larger font than the subheads or main text. This allows readers to quickly ascertain the main points, and then decide whether to dive into a particular story. Visual hierarchies are useful for any visual medium, including web design and illustration.  

Choose Harmonious Elements

When composing a design, you should always consider the work as a whole, and make decisions that enhance the design's message. Each new design element should complement the greater composition. You can achieve this by choosing images with similar colors and style, selecting fonts that belong in the same world, and making sure that minor design elements don't demand too much attention.   

Guide Viewers with Leading Lines

Leading lines offer another way for designers to direct viewers to a focal point, while also adding detail to your design. These lines and shapes allow you to point viewers to a specific image, flowchart, or title that demands their attention. From there, the leading lines can also serve as a guide to more detailed information. In some cases, a leading line can also be a photo or illustration that points in a specific direction. 

Achieve Balance

We've already mentioned harmonious elements, but how do designers place those elements to achieve design feng shui? There are two approaches: symmetrical balance and asymmetrical balance. The former approach places text, photos, and other shapes in a perfectly symmetrical way, so that elements are reflecting each other horizontally or vertically. On the other hand, asymmetrical balance is achieved by placing the most important elements however you like, and then balancing the composition accordingly. 

Embrace White Space

Finally, white space can help to draw attention to a focal point, and create much-needed breathing room in your design. Each element in your composition should serve a specific purpose, but if it's redundant or overly complex, you might want to replace it with white space. In design, subtraction is arguably more important than addition. To communicate ideas effectively, you need to have enough space. 

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