Project 2: Visual Hierarchy

Thien Le
16 min readOct 26, 2021

Communications Studio I


Mission: Carnegie Museum of Art creates experiences that connect people to art, ideas, and one another. The museum is committed to global engagement and regional advancement. We champion creativity and its importance to society with experiences that welcome, inspire, challenge, and inform. Through its programming, exhibitions, and publications, Carnegie Museum of Art frequently explores the role of art and artists in confronting key social issues of our time, combining and juxtaposing local and global perspectives.

Currently on CMOA’s website to advertise the course
  • Crash Course is an ongoing series of topic-specific art history courses hosted by Carnegie Museum of Art. Past courses have focused on artists’ depictions of urban industry, Renaissance and Baroque art, and many others.
  • CMOA has a membership program that allows people to support the causes of the museum and gets them access to members only events, discounts, and unlimited general admission. These benefits incentivizes people to frequently visit the museum and go to their events.
  • This event fits within their mission statement of wanting to inform visitors about art and design and showcasing a group that is marginalized in the field.
  • This course specifically is advertised to all adults, members, and students while some events on the website are only for CMOA members.
  • This event is online, most likely allowing more people to register and attend because it may be more convenient for them. It is also pay what you wish rather than a set price which will also allow more people to attend, most likely college students or people who do not have the means to pay but want to know more about art history.

Stroke Weight

To start out, I increased the stroke weight of the information that I thought was the most obvious such as the the title of the event and the dates of the event. I think that the session titles needed to visually stand out because if someone was glancing at the poster, they would be intrigued by who’s hosting the event, what the title of the event is, and topics that would presented at the event however for the last iteration I thought about if someone was standing to read this more in depth what information should come forward and what information should recede. To try this out, I increased the weight of the session numbers instead of the titles because that information logically goes before the title and I also increased the weight of the dates and how to attend the class because if the information was bolder than people would remember it better. However, I’m currently unsure of which of the two approaches would be more appropriate but I think that the best way to establish hierarchy with just stroke weight would be to make the session titles bolder because that content is more important than what number the session is in the event.

Line Spacing

For this variable, I first chunked the information into bigger groups so I separated the information regarding what the event was, what the content of the event is, and how to attend the event. After that, I tried separating it even more so it would be easier to read so I separated the short description so that it would stand out more, and I also separated each session because they are intellectually different sub topics under one category of women in design. With the last iteration I put more emphasis on the Carnegie Museum but I think that that information should not be emphasized as much because I think the content of the event is more essential than who is hosting the event. In all iterations, I didn’t separate the content of when or how to attend the event because I think that they all need each other in order to make sense. With this exercise, I think that line spacing is is a more effective method of establishing visual hierarchy than just stroke weight because the information for this poster makes more sense when intellectually grouped together.

Horizontal Shift, Two Left Margins

With the changing of margins, I noticed positive and negative space much more than in the previous two exercises. With each iteration, I tried to experiment with how much room to allow the eyes of viewers to breathe and not have so much information to visually digest. In the first iteration, I think that there is too much left alignment in the sessions content which would make readers glaze over that section because it is too dense. After that I shifted my perspective to using tabbing to group information together while providing enough negative space to not overwhelm the page and make it too dense.

Horizontal Shift, Three Left Margins

Having three margins added an element of movement into the information so I tried staggering the content in ways that were balanced and logically made sense to create a hierarchy that would grab attention effectively. I found that when all of the stroke weights are the same, it is necessary for the session number and title to have different margins to create a hierarchy that was both dynamic and logical.

Linespacing, Two Stroke Weights

I think that through linespacing, I have a general idea of what content should be grouped together and adding the increased stroke weights, it adds more emphasis within those groups. The usage of line spacing allows readers to quickly understand what they are seeing and the increasing of stroke weights in some lines makes the important information stand out.

Horizontal Shift, Two Stroke Weights

This last exercise was similar to the previous exercise but I tried to use alignment to group essential information so that information that I wanted to stand out were vertically grouped together. Here, I think emphasizing the title of the event, and session titles is important and with alignment, this information stands out even more.


  • The repetition of these exercises provided me with more insight of what information should be grouped together and how to create contrast by seeing what content should recede or stand out.
  • I realize that the content that I wanted to be grouped together were the date, time, and website. In future exercises I could try to separate them if the composition allows for it, but I think that I want them close in proximity to each other for it to be understood quickly because I don’t think that it is the most important information on the poster so there is no need for me to separate them and make it hard for viewers to understand.

Adjectives to describe event:

Inquisitive, Celebratory, Inspiring, Historic, Groundbreaking


Some things that I noticed with these exercises after printing them out was that the scale at which I set the type was fairly small at a distance and it was very hard to see. This taught me that I need to print out everything I make to see how it looks in real life. Another thing was that having the sessions cascade in the last poster adds unintentional emphasis on the first one over the ones that follow it, so I don’t think that that would work.


Some colors that I chose were warm and muted and then I realized they were starting to look the same so in the next color palettes, I chose colors that were brighter and contrasted.

I tried to use color minimally in the exercises above so that it is used to highlight and stand out from the rest of the content.

In the full color exercises, I experimented with gradients and solid colors. When printed, the posters read as very dark and all of the content blended into each other, especially in the example with gradient and blue background. The title was very hard to read, so I created one that had a dark background and lighter shade used for the text to stand out and when I printed this, it was much easier to read.


Literal Images
More abstract and experimental imagery

With this photo, I like how there is a strength in the height of the building, but the contrast in the curve is really interesting. I made the title the boldest and biggest because I think that it is the most important information and should stand out. I tried experimenting with different alignments to follow the curve of the photo, however I think that the photo does not work because it is too strong and leads the viewers eye to only one direction and it boring and obvious. Additionally, it places hierarchy in the sessions. I thought that with the image it could work, but the cascading titles still place emphasis of one over the other.

I chose this image because it seemed like a drop of ink and water, like a disruption, which loosely fits with the event of women disrupting an industry. The imagery that I used however, creates a composition that is too confined and restricting looking back. Here, I learned that sometimes negative space can allow the viewer’s eye to rest, but it can also sometimes make the composition feel too empty because elements are aligned weirdly on the page and only leads the viewers eye down one direction, such as in the second poster. In the future, I think I should try to have the text align in a way that makes the viewer’s eye naturally move throughout the poster. With posters, I think capturing attention is part of it, but once I catch their attention, I want them to stay at it. When the composition is too straightforward, the viewer may get bored and not remember the poster after they walk away.

I tried experimenting with an image that was more literal, so I found an image of a set of chairs that had a nice rhythm and composition. In this set specifically, I focused on alignment to elements in the photograph in a way that was not as intense as the ones with the building. One issue that I dealt with was having to make the size of text smaller because there was not enough space to make it the size that I want. In the second example, I didn’t like how the title was at the same angle with the light and I think that having it in view and not interacting with is could be a distraction, so I decided to use a different part of the image to make the imagery have less distractions.


Of the two I showed, the one with the chair was more effective. The imagery may be too obvious because it shows the artifact, but even so, experiment more with the chair, specifically the aligning of text so that it is doesn’t follow the photo as much, and find more images that have that celebratory, inspiring feeling to add a more humanistic element.

Refinements and experiments shown to Yoshi
Refinements and experiments shown to Yoshi 2

Proximity, Scale, Alignment

It was with these experimentations that I realized that regardless of the imagery used, I wanted to keep the “session” clusters together and not scattered across the page. I think it is more effective to have the title have more movement in the alignment but because there are many sessions that are relatively small, having them all scattered creates a look that is disorganized and chaotic. During my crit with Yoshi, he mentioned that the purpose of this project is to manipulate few elements to create hierarchy and in my process currently, I have gone too far with manipulation of stroke weight and proximity that is not working, so I have to decrease the number of weights I’m using and create proximity by grouping elements along a grid. Previously, I was aligning clusters of text with random things on the page but I think I should have a more methodical approach and place text along those lines.


I was having a hard time thinking of images that were not chairs and I think that reflected in some of the images I used because they were quite random and not reflective of the content or context. Yoshi suggested that to get away from this, I should do a word association exercise to get my mind thinking about words that related to the content but weren’t exactly chairs.

word association

Some words that I liked were power, voice, progress, and opportunity. With this, I searched for images that embodied these words to try to get an image that was not as obvious.

With this set of posters, I tried to capture a sense of history and progress with the woman working in a technical field along men. I experimented with different compositions and grids but I don’t think that this image could work because the image takes up too much of the composition and it doesn’t allow space for the type because it is so detailed that the content seems like an afterthought, especially the sessions. Additionally, I realized that the image breaks boundaries and shows a woman “interrupting” a male-dominated area but I think I want the type to also have this feeling of breaking boundaries, celebration and inspiration so that the mood that is evoked does not only come from the image.

I tried doing that with the type in this image, but I still do not think that there is enough room for the sessions and I don’t think that in this context I can have the text go over the images in a way that looks intentional and not an afterthought.

The next image I tried working with was this megaphone. After rereading the description for the event on cmoa’s website, some phrases that I wanted to embody were “precedent-setting women”, “interrupted”, and “created pathways” so my idea for this was to broadcast, amplify, and uplift the voices of the female designers who paved a way for future female designers in a male-dominated field. I understand that looking at it may not be obvious so I am afraid of using this image. Regardless, I experimented with the background color and arrangement of elements to create a composition that wasn’t as static. I think that offsetting the title also plays into the feeling of breaking boundaries that I wanted to experiment with and works well with the image.

More experimentations

In the first two images, I tried to use a graphic instead of a photograph just to see how effective it could be in working with the type but in the graphics that I liked, the type and image didn’t work together in a way that looked intentional and I figured that I would not have time to come up with an idea for a graphic and execute it so I decided to stick with photographs. The other imagery that I used is of a young girl looking out of a bright window. I thought that this image would fit with the event because it shows how the future for female designers is full of hope, opportunity, and greatness because of the past designers who paved a way for them. I asked some of my classmates what their opinions on the image were and most of the said that is was a stretch. Still, I liked the image but I don’t think it is appropriate because it can be interpreted as sad and lonely while I wanted celebratory, loud, and prideful.

When talking to Vicki, it was clear that the megaphone imagery and composition was the one that I should tweak and make my final. I think that there is a nice rhythm in the typography and the imagery is subtle enough to convey a sense of visibility and amplification. The alignment that I currently have guides the viewer’s eyes around the poster, but I should refine it a bit. My next steps are to take advantage of the leading lines in the image, adjust the leading in the title, and use fewer sizes for type to make everything cohesive. If I wanted to have a louder, more confident composition, I should adjust the scale of the title so that it embodies those traits instead of perfectly fitting in the margins and having leading of 20% because it currently seems quiet and too comfortable.

Some things that I struggled while refining was trying to understand how much the text should go off the page and the color of the poster. Additionally, the image that I was saving was too small and did not allow for the tagline and title to be aligned next to the hotspots and for the “Crash Course:” to be close enough to the title for it to be read as one. I realized this after printing because the picture was very pixelated, but after saving the correct file for the image, I was given much more room to work with that allowed me to vertically align the “Crash Course:” and horizontally align the tagline to the hotspot on the megaphone.

During the final crit, Vicki pointed out that the rag of my tagline could be adjusted so that it read better which is what I changed for my final poster.

Final Poster


  • Printing was very essential in this project and I wish I realized this a little earlier on because when printing, I could see how alignment and scale worked in the poster and especially, in the end the colors were printing weird and the photo was very pixelated and I think that stress could have been avoided if I printed much earlier.
  • The use of a grid is very important. Aligning text to hotspots and leading lines can make the poster effective but when a grid is also used, the poster can be even more effective in capturing the viewer’s attention and drawing their eye throughout the page.
  • I’m glad that I experimented with different compositions, images, and colors, but I think in the beginning, I limited myself on what should be grouped together which is evident in my final poster. I think that this is fine because my final has a nice balance and flow, but if I separated the dates and times or placed different emphasis on the tagline or part of the title, I could have a better idea of the range of effectiveness for my poster.
  • I’m also glad that I didn’t just stick to one idea even when I was satisfied with it but instead focus on the audience context of the poster. I was really satisfied with the chair poster but in retrospect, I’m glad that I didn’t use it because the chairs aren’t in the point of view of being sat on and they look empty so it just looks depressing and I don’t think that I would have come to the conclusion if I used it as my final.
  • Learning visual hierarchy in a way that was step by step was helpful in the long run because I was able to pinpoint why visually something was effective or not which is something that I will take from to future projects.