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Composition is a great tool for creating a visual flow or rhythm to guide the viewers eye and lead them through your content. Thinking about the way you want your users to interact with your content is important—you probably want users to read the text that convinces them to buy your product before they see your "Buy Now" button, for example.

Some obvious elements that help create a visual flow include arrows, lines and perspective. Weight, positioning, spacing and color can also be used to create a visual flow and rhythm.

What considerations should be made and what specific techniques can be used when creating a visual flow & rhythm in design?


Some examples:

Pulp Fingers

m1-Design

New Deal Festival

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The answer to this question could be a master's thesis, so please consider my answer as an opinion more than a technical answer.

Designs, when it comes with ads, posters, book covers, etc., are direct messages wrapped in a design composition. The common elements between all compositions are typography, visual language, scripture language and its direction. When it comes to typographic language, we are talking tacitly about "directions", and directions give us "moments". We assume in any typographic design that the eye will move from left to right and from the top to bottom. This is the basic eye moment for any visual typographic composition and some called it "Reading Pattern".

So already we have a start in our composition based on "Reading Pattern" where the viewers follow it naturally. Text and some graphics will lead us to start from the very top/left and end in the bottom/right. Further in this answer I will call it the TL/RB rule or the Basic Reading Pattern, as if I am reading a newspaper columns. This is the very basic direction.

Compositions with some styles, colors, and any visual design elements may break the rule, like font weights, colors, style, using arrows, proportions etc. All possible compositions you mentioned are a rule breakers, but each starts from the rule. What I mean by that is when we intend to break the TL/RB rule (Basic reading pattern) with some styles, we are actually creating small "sentences" within the whole message we want to deliver to the viewer. In other words, we start our composition from any position in the design and give the viewer their own journey and experience understanding our whole message according to our composition and based on the viewer's "culture".

When we decide to catch the user's eye and redirect it the way we want through our design, we are actually composing a visual language speaking to the viewer's conscience and giving them enough time to absorb the rest of our message using the basic and default TL/RB rule and based on their culture.

It's hard to say where the user will start their journey in my design, but I can lead him with some eye-catching styles. This is not easy because I am speaking to him with a visual language and assuming he can understand what I want to say withing my design, what message is, where to start and where to end, and how to understanding my design. This language is not a direct scripture language, meaning it is not a common language that could be understood directly. That's why we call it "design philosophy". It may be reflect a common visual language, or may not, depending on both designer and viewer culture.

I am not speaking to users through my design with my visual language only, but I am speaking a visual Language that the user may be understood according to the user's culture as well. My design and his culture must meet together in the first impression.

This is my concept and I could talk more, but as I said it could be a master's thesis.

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The 'F' Pattern

There is the well-known effect of the 'F' pattern, where readers will scan the page from top to bottom and left to right, paying more attention to the left than the right, roughly in the shape of an 'F'. This is backed by research and a number of scientific studies.

This mainly applies to text heavy pages, with minimal graphical elements. As soon as you remove large chunks of body text and add focal elements, the pattern disappears. It is however something to keep in mind.

Techniques for Creating Flow

The flow and movement in your design is something to keep in mind throughout the whole process. First you need to understand what you are trying to achieve—Have a clear path of movement through the design in mind the whole time and begin by grouping related elements and creating a distinct visual hierarchy of information. You can then use visual cues to direct the flow through the design. Some elements that are commonly used as visual cues include lines, shapes, arrows, scale, perspective and imagery.

Lines & Shapes

Lines can be used to direct motion in a number of ways. Lines that are perpendicular to the direction of motion will act as a barrier, changing the direction or stoping motion all together. Directional or gestural lines and shapes can create movement and flow.

Compare these layouts, with different use of lines:

Lines

More complex shapes can also be used to direct the flow:

Shapes

Arrows imply motion and your eyes will naturally follow the direction of the arrow, so it makes sense to point arrows where you want someone to look. Compare these arrows, pointing away from then towards the content:

Arrow pointing away

Arrow pointing at

Visual Weight & Hierarchy

Larger elements will naturally draw the eye. The use of size and scale is an important part of creating a visual hierarchy that will guide the eye through the design. Grouping related elements and creating a perceived visual weight using contrasting fonts, weights and colors helps to prioritize the most important information.

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Perspective

A percieved perspective, through the use of diagonal lines and scale or a literal perspective through the use of imagery is another technique.

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The Eyes

The human brain is made to recognise faces. An effective technique is to use photography or illustration of a subject with its line of sight directing to your focal point.

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  • Her eyes dont seem to focus on your text but closer ? – joojaa Apr 18 '16 at 14:32
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    It was a very quick example and the first picture I found... – Cai Apr 18 '16 at 14:33
  • Gave this one the bounty for one reason - "First you need to understand what you are trying to achieve." The goal is how you define the flow. When people say "What are you trying to achieve" thinking its too broad.... no, you're there, that's it, that's the answer! – Ryan Apr 18 '16 at 14:42
  • Thanks @Ryan yeh techniques are great, but useless without knowing what you are using them for! – Cai Apr 18 '16 at 14:45

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