Find Your Focus: 10 Tips & Tricks for Mastering Composition (Part 1)

 In Design

There are many elements that go into creating a successful and powerful design. In this two part series, read to find out how color, balance, lines, and other visual elements work together to create better designs.

We’ve all heard it a thousand times – “don’t judge a book by its cover.” But in this age of endless visual content where we rely so heavily on first impressions and appearances, how can we not? That’s why your book cover – otherwise known as a brand image – needs to be eye-catching and educate consumers about what your company stands for.

This should serve as a warning: what you’re creating is going to be judged, so be thoughtful and careful when designing it. Thankfully, the use of basic compositional tools such as color, type, and balance can help you create a successful image with a beautifully cohesive design.

Create and enhance an emotional relationship between your images and your consumer by using these five compositional tips. Let’s dive in!

1.      Focusing In

Let’s talk focusing. Trust us, we know finding a focus and then staying focused can be difficult. And even though it may seem like the simplest, most obvious step to creating a successful design, getting off track is easy!

So what do we mean by focus? Your focus is the main message of your image: what you want your audience to pay attention to. Identifying your focus is integral to creating a design that not only makes sense, but is visually pleasing – which can be difficult considering we live in a world filled with constant visual stimuli.

By first solidifying your message and then making it your focal point, you eliminate clutter and highlight the consumer takeaway. From there you can develop a visual concept and tell your story in the strongest and most effective way possible.

2.      The Rule that Rules

While some rules are meant to be broken, this is one that, if followed, will lead to sure success. The rule of thirds is a simple compositional tool that divides an image into an imaginary 3×3 grid. Thankfully, this numbers-based rule requires zero mathematical skill other than the ability to count to three. Let’s look at the rule of thirds in the ad for Aspall hard cider below. The bottle is placed within the far-left third of the image – something that is proven to gain consumer’s attention.

Simply put, in order to capture the immediate attention of consumers, the most important elements within the photo should be in the first third of the image. Our eyes are naturally drawn to these points which can help make an ad even more impactful. If you’re looking to gain a more in-depth look at how the rule of thirds works, check out this post of ours.

rule of thirds

3.      Leading Lines

Lines are everywhere. On your drive to work this morning you probably saw abundant examples of leading lines – roads, your car’s dashboard, billboards, and bridges. These lines often work on a subconscious level, which is why we don’t notice them. Surprisingly, finding or creating these lines in a photo or a design can actually be difficult.

Here’s how to simplify it: find the lines/shapes throughout your graphics and then center the text around them. This will make it easier to draw viewers to the main focal point and then use other lines to guide them through the rest of the image.

Next time you’re designing an image try utilizing the natural lines in your images first before adding your own to ramp up your design. A recent Volkswagen ad combined leading lines and patterns. The lines direct the viewer’s eye to the margin, featuring Volkswagen’s logo and a tagline: “a bad part affects the entire system. Volkswagen original parts.”

leading lines

4.      Color is everywhere

Color is one of the first things people notice in an image – so it’s important to be thoughtful when picking complementary colors that will help convey your message. Think about fast food restaurant logos. It’s no coincidence that nearly all fast food restaurants use the same color scheme of red, white, and yellow. Whether this color combination makes you think of McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, In-n-Out, Dairy Queen, or another favorite fast food joint, the bottom line is clear – there is a psychology behind why we associate certain colors with specific industries and emotions.

color emotion guide

Different colors have the power to create different emotional responses, and can influence consumer buying habits. For example, yellow is viewed as an optimistic color that should be used to convey energy and happiness. Conversely, green emits a peaceful energy associated with balance and nature. Since all colors have the power to spur emotions, it’s crucial to choose your color palette carefully and thoughtfully.

Check out this short video for a simple explanation on the impact color choices has on your design.

5.      Frame of Mind

I know we’re throwing a lot of compositional tools at you so let’s pump the breaks a little. If this is your first time considering framing as a design element, you might be asking yourself how you actually use framing. But trust us, it’s as simple as it sounds: to direct the eye to the important parts of your image, use frames.

In a traditional sense, frames define space between wall and art by drawing the human eye to the art. In photography, natural frames are all around us, such as an arching bridge or a hole in a fence. Though less natural, cropping helps people discover new images within a photo or illustration. You can crop the image to tell the right story, and hopefully tell it well.

framing                                                     framing

In Part 2, you’ll learn 5 more tips that will boost your creativity and polish your compositional skills.

In search of more help designing your brand? Connect with Marketing Doctor for professional advertising help! In the meantime, be on the lookout for Part 2 of this article in which we’ll equip you the confidence to take on the world of design!

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