Friday, January 4, 2013

Hierarchy: Puts Order Into A Design

A design composition is a clash of subjects vying for importance. Just how one manages to create harmony and avoid chaos among subjects determines the maturity of the person as a designer.

Hierarchy is evident around us. Practically in all aspects of social interaction hierarchy exists. This is the understanding that binds everything together. It is observed in humans, but is blatantly more pronounced in animal families and insect colonies.  In a family, hierarchy assigns the parents as the head. The military establishment as well places the commander in chief as head in the chain of command. Governments have the President. Monarchy’s has the King. Religious organization (Catholics) has the Pope as head and so on. Chaos could result if hierarchy is not dutifully practiced. Even in design distant from the social concerns, hierarchy is also evident.

Hierarchy is elevating one subject in importance over the other. Design is the synchronous interplay of the different subjects in a composition. Much like in theater plays where there is a lead actor or actress. Less dominant players evolve around in unison to support the lead players. The same thing happens in a design, although not really very pronounced as in plays. A rendering of a foot bridge and brook for instance, both are dominant subjects. However, if the designer opts to make the brook as the focus, then the bridge plays second fiddle. The designer makes the conscious effort to project the brook, while relegating the bridge in a supporting role.
Organized hierarchy results in design harmony. Designing is complicated. It involves not only varying subjects but detailing as well.  Even on only one subject, details can spoil the composition. Structures for example are built with intersecting planes. How the planes were designed to compliment each other is already hard labor. But once details are included, designing becomes even more challenging. The inclusion of door and window opening is one. If the addition is dominant, it will compete visually. The complete structure will no longer be appreciated on its own merits. Designers must therefore practice hierarchy.
Once hierarchy is achieved, the work of art communicates. The viewer’s eye coincidentally focuses on the dominant figure as explained in the above example. Total harmony on the subjects has been achieved.  As the eye is trained towards the brook, the message communicates, giving the impression of the physical nature of the brook. And not noticed the bridge that could similarly be dilapidated and ready to fall. The bridge becomes only secondary in importance. That is how important hierarchy as a principle in design is in promoting one phase of a composition.

Remember, hierarchy also applies to designing. In fact, this design ideas and principles importance is tops as it puts order into the composition.

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