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Design thinking
Design thinking

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3.1.6 Emphasis and dominance

Designs often display a point of focus. In graphic designs this is usually associated with the figure (as opposed to the ground). This gives emphasis to the composition. Our eye is often taken from that which is emphasised (through scale, weight, contrast, colour, shape, isolation, etc.) to other elements of a composition.

For example, in Figure 23 a brightly coloured bird stands out from the muted shades of the background. Our eye is drawn to that part of the composition and this is particularly useful if the image is complex. In this example the colour isolates the bird from the leaves.

Figure 23 A brightly coloured paper bird on a background of paper leaves

Every newspaper or magazine we flip through bombards us with a constant flow of visual stimuli, such as advertisements. These fight for our attention through the use of visually dominant elements that often emphasise the selling point in the ad.

Figure 24 shows an online advertisement for a mobile phone service. It draws attention through the large red areas symbolising a mobile phone and the price of the service. The colour of the main elements sets them clearly in the foreground against a paler background. Large coloured areas dominate the composition.

Figure 24 An advertisement that uses the principle of emphasis