Hierarchy in Graphic Design: Understanding What it Means and How to Use It

Manipulating hierarchy in graphic design is an excellent way to show how the elements of your piece interact together, calling attention to the most important elements and minimizing the focus on other, less-critical elements of the design. By understanding hierarchy and how it pertains to your piece, you can create more effective designs that are more likely to appeal to your audience.

What is Hierarchy in Graphic Design?

Hierarchy in graphic design utilizes several key principles, including size, color, contrast, alignment, repetition, and brightness, to emphasize certain characteristics of the design. It controls those factors in order to show importance within the design as a whole.

Why is Hierarchy Important in Graphic Design?

By understanding hierarchy, you can better understand how to draw attention to specific elements of your piece. If you overemphasize a background element, for example, it may draw attention away from the part of the piece that you most want your viewers to take in. On the other hand, by utilizing hierarchy properly, you can show users exactly what you want them to pay attention to, keeping their eyes on the most critical element of the piece.

Utilizing Hierarchy in Graphic Design

As you put together your design, there are several key elements that you will want to consider. Keep in mind that many of these elements may depend on the overall structure of your piece and the elements you most want to draw attention to.


Most often, bright colors draw the eye and keep the viewer's attention. By emphasizing the color of a specific object or objects, you show that you want the viewer to take note of those items. Sometimes, this is a relatively subtle effect: one specific item that is only a little brighter than the others in the frame or that is a specific color while others are not. Other times, you may use a dramatic effect: one pop of color in an otherwise gray or mono-color piece, for example.


Large objects are more likely to draw the eye and take on more attention in the viewer's mind than smaller elements of the design. Sometimes, you may want to highlight specific parts of your design by making them larger than the others.


The position of an item in your design can help draw attention to it. For example, you might use the rule of thirds to make a specific element of the design pop or place the subject of your image front and center.


By using a similar pattern or object over and over, you increase its importance and draw more attention to it. Through repetition, you can emphasize certain specific elements of your design.


Keeping items close to one another in your design may show that they're related. By placing text next to an image, for example, you usually show that the text is related in some way to the image. Likewise, placing two pieces side-by-side may cause the audience to connect or compare those elements, depending on the design element and how they are otherwise emphasized.

White Space

Using white space, or blank space, around a particular part of a design element often draws more attention to it. Effective use of white space can help establish importance in your design. A lack of white space, on the other hand, can pull elements of the design together.


Creating effective graphic designs involves a high degree of attention to hierarchy and importance within your design. CorelDRAW can help you create stunning designs that include elements of hierarchy effectively. Check out CorelDRAW today to learn more about our graphic design solutions.

Need to Download CorelDRAW?

Download a Free 15-Day Trial Now!