Balance and Movement in Visual Design
In general, as human beings we seek to maintain balance. We want equilibrium in our lives (balance and play) and in our society (balance the scales of justice). Balance has a positive connotation and, therefore, we may respond differently to visual images that are in balance and those that are out of balance. When we view things that are out of balance, we tend to feel that something is not quite right.
Balance refers to the distribution of optical weight in the layout. Optical Weight is the ability of an element (graphic text, headline, subhead, and so on) to attract the user's eye. Each element has optical weight as determined by its nature and size. The nature of an element refers to it's shape, color, brightness, and type. For example, a stunning color photograph of Mount Everest would have more weight than a block of text of an equal size. Following are some guidelines for understanding optical weight:
Formal and Informal Balance
The position of the elements is also critical. We unconsciously assume the center of a picture corresponds to a fulcrum. Balance is determined by the weight of the elements and their position on the screen. That is, if you were to divide the screen into four parts, a balanced layout would have about the same weight in each part. Balance can be accomplished through symmetrical design or asymmetrical design.
Symmetrical balance is achieved through arranging similar elements such as two graphics of equal weight, or one centered graphic element. When elements are balanced in such a way that they seem to mirror across an imaginary center line, we call this "Formal Balance." Formal Balance gives a feeling of solidity, timelessness, ease or authority.
|Asymmetrical balance is achieved by arranging dissimilar elements. A heavy weight on one side can be balanced by a lighter weight on the other side of the lighter weight is located ata greater distance from the fulcrum. This is called "Informal Balance." Informal Balance creates a feeling of movement, flow or action. It is more dynamic than Formal Balance and can increase the "drama" of an image.|
Balance can be affected by assigning attributes to elements:
Movement has to do with how the viewer's eye travels around the design. When a viewer looks at an image the eye is drawn to a particular location. In a balanced design, this might be what is called the optical center --a point somewhat above the physical center of the image. The tendency of English readers is to move from upper left to lower right as they proceed through the contents of a design. This tends to govern the placement of elements, such as a magazine title near the top of the cover.
Movement is important in situations where there is a primary message or impression that the designer wants to convey. In these cases, the designer will try to effect movement and emphasize various elements by applying certain design techniques:
|Wired Magazine Cover illustrating a radial composition, moving the eye around center, and using color (red) to lead the eye around.|
The designer can emphasize an element by making it a contrasting shape or color, surrounding it with white space, using a different font or type style, creating borders, and using different backgrounds for selected objects.
Communication in a design can be influenced by contrast : large contrasted with small, light with dark, complex with simple. Higher contrast is associated with drama, tension and action.
Unity has to do with how the various elements in a design relate. An element that seems out of place can be disconcerting to the user and distract from achieving the desired effect. Unity reinforces the message or theme. Unity can be achieved by consistency in shapes, colors, text styles, and themes.
Designing for an Audience
Foremost in guiding the design process is the viewer. As much as possible, the designer must understand the viewer's interests. The tendency of the designer is to approach the design process from his or her own perspective, reflecting personal knowledge and experience, personal tastes and color preferences. These can be quite different from those of the intended audience . The challenge for designers is to put themselves in the place of the viewer.