Layout and Composition

January 10, 2018

Most design work involves putting content in logical order. This is done through layout and composition. The principles that govern layout are pretty simple once you know what they are called. Let’s take a look at the basics.

When you analyze something that has been designed or are creating something yourself, run through the list of these basic principles in your mind.

  • Proximity
  • White space
  • Alignment
  • Contrast
  • Repetition

When examining your own work, ask questions like… “Did I arrange elements in ways so they “held together” as logical groups? (proximity). Are there any elements like text or images that are “floating off” and do not align with anything else? (alignment).

The more critical you are of your work, the more it will improve.


When we design, we decide what is most important, and what is secondary, tertiary, and other-aries. Our decisions define what are headlines (h1), subheads (h2), body copy (text), and other levels of hierarchy. Defining hierarchy brings order to the work and makes it easier to use.

Typographic Hierarchy

Typographic hierarchy is one of the most common ways we define hierarchy in visual design. When using type, we have many different tools in our toolbox for developing order in our layouts. For example:

  • Typeface selection: Some typefaces are bold and others are light. The heavier the typeface, the more attention it tends to get
  • Size: Bigger type, more attention
  • Weight: The thickness of the letters
  • Capital and lowercase letters: All capital letters tend to feel heavier and get more attention

The article Every Design Needs Three Levels of Typographic Hierarchy at the website for UK design agency Freedom of Creation discusses typographic hierarchy in detail. Give it a read to learn more.


Associate Professor

Miami University