Emphasis and the Principles and Elements of Design

Use emphasis to create a focal point, draw attention

Something that is singled out or made more prominent has emphasis. An element of a design that dominates or becomes the center of interest has emphasis.

Within the visual components of a page design, emphasis is applied to individual parts such as a word or phrase by changing its appearance, making it stand out. Sometimes considered a principle of design on its own, emphasis can be created using all of the various elements and principles of design.

Emphasis and the Elements of Design

Create a focal point by making one component of the design more prominent or eye-catching than the others.

  • Line: In a design composed of horizontal lines, the vertical line becomes the focal point.
  • Shape: A square stands out from a group of circles or organic shapes.
  • Mass: The physically or visually heavier element or piece commands more attention.
  • Texture: Embossing adds tactile interest and emphasis.
  • Color: A splash of color or a strong change in value in an otherwise gray piece will draw the eye.

Emphasis and the Principles of Design

Use the arrangement of the page components to create a focal point or visual hierarchy of dominant and subordinate elements.

  • Balance: A perfectly symmetrical piece may have no focal point because each element is equally emphasized. Radial balance generally draws the eye first to the central point in the design.
  • Proximity: A part of the design that is isolated from other parts can become a focal point.
  • Alignment: The eye is naturally drawn to a point in or near the center of a page, giving elements in that area perceived importance.
  • Repetition: Repeating an image or a word can establish its importance.
  • Contrast: Set words or phrases in a contrasting bold type or italics to give them emphasis.
  • White space: Use white space to isolate elements and give them emphasis.

    Whether or not classified as a principle of design, emphasis is an important concept that touches on all aspects of graphic design and page composition.