Typesetting & Visual Hierarchy

Typesetting is the art of arranging text and lettering on a page. Though this sounds simple enough, when you dive into it a bit more there is so much that goes into typesetting than first thought. It is a science and an art.

As a designer, the first thing you have to consider is, what is it you are typesetting?

Is it the interior of a book, a poster or a banner? Or maybe it is something smaller like a business card. The format for the typesetting is crucial as it is the guide for how you go forth with that specific job. Another important piece of knowledge a designer should hone that could help with all typesetting formats - Visual Hierarchy.

Visual Hierarchy

One of the most important aspects in the hierarchy is the SIZE.

Usually the larger something is displayed on the a page means the more important it is as it is the first thing the eye is drawn to. This could be the name of a company on a business card or the title of an event on a poster.

Another tool of hierarchy is POSITIONING. It is all well and good having the eye drawn to the first most important element on the page but where do you want the eyes to travel to next as not ALL the information can be big and bold! We have been conditioned to read things from left to right, a natural habit when reading anything. This is why logos are most likely to be placed in the top left corner of a website. Subheadings are also a great way to attract the viewer after the initial title whether in a magazine, leaflet and even in a blog.

Nothing looks good if it is crammed with clutter. That is why WHITESPACE (or negative space) is so important. Less really is more. Whitespace is a great way to increase or decrease the importance of the objects or information on the page.

The next in our list of visual hierarchy points is also a combination of other aspects. COLOUR is made up of three components being Saturation, Hue and Contrast.

Saturation: Something colourful on a page full of black and white text is given the highest importance as that is what the eye will be automatically drawn to first. That is why images in magazines are used, to stop the reader from flicking through and read that article.

Hue: Some colours are more dominant than others; for example, warmer colours tend to stand out more so than cooler colours. Reds, oranges and yellows portray the feelings of passion, excitement and optimism whereas blues and greens express feelings of peace, health and reliability. This is why alerts and sale signs are in red to express urgency. You can find out more on colour expressions in our blog post ‘Colour Choices & Modes’.

Contrast: The contrast between dark and light creates impact. If light colours are used on a dark background they will automatically stand out, and vice-versa.

Even if the goal is to create a somewhat chaotic design similar to that of past post-modern posters, there is still an element of order. This is through ALIGNMENT. Alignment creates a sense of cohesion and importance; for example, text situated in the middle of a label in central alignment would be the first to attract the eye. It allows the text to flow on the page for the viewer to follow with ease.

All of these elements that contribute to the visual hierarchy can help guide a designer’s initiative when developing a piece of typesetting. This allows you a base to experiment and push the boundaries of design with whilst knowing the importance of each and how to best arrange and display text.