Research Point – Visual Dynamics

Visual dynamics is the energy created by the arrangement of all your visual elements in a composition.

Visual harmony is created when all of the elements of a composition work together as a single, cohesive unit. There needs to be a balance maintained in a design between opposing forces or elements and it is important to exercise care when introducing rhythm or tension. Both of these add visual interest, energy and help to add weight but it is important to not jar the eye too much and make it uncomfortable to take in a composition. The most effective way of producing a balanced design is to have a good understanding of how visual contrast can be used to generate dynamism and interest while retaining harmony between elements.

According to Jan Tschichold

Contrast is the single most important element in all modern design

Visual contrast is used to attract the eye and add visual interest to a composition. Contrast excites, dramatises, exaggerates, emphasises, accents and attracts attention through establishing hierarchies between different visual elements such as size, colour, shape and type. Visual hierarchy is important as it establishes a focal point and gives an entry point for the eye to navigate a design. Using size or colour strategically can create visual importance and highlight important information or imagery. The size, category and style of a typeface can also create emphasis and give personality to a composition. As important as the elements is the white space separating and organising them. White space can be used creatively to give balance and visual rests… it can forge a path to travel through the design. The elements of a design that you look at first tend to be those at contrast with the rest of the image. Larger objects or type or those in a complementary colour to the rest of the scheme stand out. Different shapes can signify principle elements as in the case of a circle placed in a layout of predominately rectangles. Layering can also make you look at one element before another.

Some examples of visual dynamics at work:

The most common elements that are creating visual contrast in my diary are colour and type.

Spots are back: Jean Jullien


This image employs both colour and movement to create contrast. The diagonal lines in juxtaposition to the vertical create visual tension and draws your eye to the outline of the person and the booklet in the centre of the composition. The addition of colour in a small area of black and white attracts attention to the magazine and makes it a focal point.

Alex Trochut – Foot Locker Advert


Directional contrast is also used in this foot locker graphic of black and white Nikey trainers. The tension between the lines defines the message of the graphic.

Adi Goodrich – Native Shoes


The use of a complementary colour scheme in this shoe advertisement gives visual importance to the product being advertised. The contrast created by the complementary colours of brown/blue excites the eye and establishes the shoe as the entry point for navigation of the design. It stands our and is the first element defined by the eye.

Owen Phillips – Sonic Happening

sonic happening_03

This poster uses size to create a four level typographical hierarchy. The key elements are larger and thus give the information more significance and priority. The typeface, the bold colours and the directional movement gives the composition a visual personality which complements the style and atmosphere of the event.


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