Project 2: Visual Hierarchy

I chose the Dance poster. After initially looking at the information I figured out the following information:

  • It’s for Pittsburgh Dance Council’s 2021–2022 season.
  • There were 4 dance companies performing. It said the dance company name, the performance name, the date, and then the time.
  • It also mentions the location (Byham Theater) and the website

After examining the information I did some background research on the Pittsburgh Dance Council:

  • It is part of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust which is a non-profit arts organization focused on the cultural and economic development of the cultural district (an area in downtown Pittsburgh). The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust owns many venues and gallery spaces in this area where they hold their events
  • The Pittsburgh Dance Council is a division of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and is one of the largest contemporary dance presenters in the country
  • The 2021–2022 Season is their 51st season and features international dance companies doing a variety of styles within contemporary dance including hip-hop, dance-circus, etc.

Part 1:

Stroke Weights

  • Less is more
  • The clustering of heavy weights/bold almost cancels out the emphasis from the bold


  • spacing adds breathing room
  • but too much spacing takes away hierarchy and makes everything flat/busy

Horizontal Shift: Two Flush Left Margins

  • Less is more
  • shifts help cluster information
  • Clustering to emphasize (left) vs clustering to organize (right)

Horizontal Shift: Three Flush Left Margins

  • does right to left matter?
  • in some ways only two margins emphasizes more because more simplistic

Linespacing + Two Stroke Weights

  • less is more

Horizontal Shift + Two Stroke Weights

  • less is more

The main takeaway I had from this exercise is that less is more. I tried many different contrasts, but what made the biggest impacts in terms of hierarchy were the more simplistic examples.

Part 2:


  • The larger contrast in text, the clearer the hierarchy was
  • When there are too many changes in scale/orientation it becomes too busy and harder to read
  • Following a grid made the layout easier to look at/clear/straight forward, but made the composition somewhat boring. Breaking the grid made the composition more dynamic — how to find a balance?

One thing I didn’t do (and definitely should’ve done) when I was working with scale was think about how the content of the text/contemporary dance/the Pittsburgh Dance Council would effect my layout.


The colors I chose were influenced by the Pittsburgh Dance Council. Their contemporary dance performances had a minimalist aesthetic with lots of dull/natural/earthy colors, but often featured little pops of color to add energy:

To approach color I looked for color swatches in magazines, then put images of the magazine in Adobe capture to come up with a base color palette and get these colors onto illustrator. Once I these colors got in illustrator, I selected which one’s I wanted to use and slightly adjusted them to refine my color palettes.

  • I feel like the imagery of the magazines influenced the appeal of the colors I chose.

so I tried to find dull, natural/earthy tones

Some things I reflected on after the crit…

  • simple colors work nicely with hierarchy (grays, whites, blacks)
  • my final exercises lack movement, and the energy that dance/the Pittsburgh Dance council implies

Part 3: Images

When I was picking out my images my goal was to use the images to add more life, movement, and dynamism to my text without making the composition too busy and sacrificing hierarchy as well as Pittsburgh Dance Council’s contemporary, minimalist style. So, I tried to choose images with figures in order to add life. I was especially drawn to images that emphasized flesh/human form because in dance human form is what creates the art. I also looked out for figures that would imply movement (figures in action + photos with low shutter speeds).

Image 1

The first image I chose was from the Pittsburgh Dance Council Website. It was from one of the performances featured on the poster (Botis Seva — Far From the Norm). I chose this image because I felt like the colors were simple enough for me to work with, and I felt that it expressed the emotion and action I was looking for with my images. Also, this was the only one of my images with a non-plain background, so it was slightly more challenging to work with. However, it added a sense of space and detail to the whole page.

  • Adding colors to these was tricky because with the stressful emotions on the figures faces it alluded to war
  • Also since I used the whole image (I did do cut outs). I had to squeeze the horizontal image onto the tabloid sheet and instead of adding movement and openness it made the composition quite tense
  • I also struggled with text placement/color since the whole image filled the background and I had to work around it. I felt constrained. I don’t think using a set image was appropriate for this poster because this poster was about dance and movement, and using a set image guided the composition too heavily.

I tried cutting out the figures and playing with the text more to free me of the constraints of using a whole image. Though creating this image allowed me to play around with a more dynamic layout I think I hit a dead end with this image.

  • the cutouts were awkward because they were a little too dynamic they looked sort of funny cut out. Almost like a meme.
  • In this iteration I realized the placement of “pittsburgh dance council” and “2021–2022 Season” as a border/frame worked against a more dynamic layout because it blocked off movement. It looked like these figures were trapped

Image 2

I chose this image after my last iterations with image 1 where I experimented with a somewhat radial composition. I wanted to be able integrate the text and image more and I thought this image would allow for that. I also chose this because it had lots of movement.

I played around a lot with the placement of the of the text in the radius around the image and used a circle guide from the center to make sure the text was angled correctly.

Some feedback I got from this crit was

  • try having the image less central since the image itself is asymmetrical — play around with it coming off the page?
  • even though the text placement is unconventional/dynamic try clustering it together for better organization
  • the text at the bottom could be more dynamic, it doesn’t flow well with the rest of the page

Although I didn’t end up exploring this image in more depth the feedback I got was useful for my other explorations.

Image 3

This was definitely the simplest image I chose, but I think the most successful since it gave me the flexibility to play around a lot more with the layout and hierarchy.

Because this image, especially cutout, gave me so many options for different compositions I felt overwhelmed. So, I decided to use a modular grid to guide me.

The main feedback I got on this crit:

  • There is too much change in hierarchy, too busy — try limiting how many types of hierarchy you use
  • make it less symmetrical, dance especially contemporary dance = asymmetrical
  • the frame created around the page limits movement/openness, make text more dynamic, have things come off the page
  • don’t be afraid of open space
  • use brighter pops of color, the energy of dance
  • I’m missing an opportunity to have the


The iteration I chose to refine was the second iteration of my 3rd image. Since the placement of the figures created nice asymmetrical flow.

Final Crit

In order to reset and let go of the symmetry and my urge to fill up the page I removed the text and just started with the figures. I played around with the text more and moved around the figures slightly, keeping in mind open space, asymmetry, and limited hierarchy types.

  • Unfortunately I did not print this out until the last minute, so I did not get to check the colors or look at the poster from afar

the main feedback from Tuesday’s crit

  • From afar it’s hard to read the things I’m trying to emphasize (“Pittsburgh Dance Council”)
  • the color of “Pittsburgh Dance Council” comes off as a muted brownish red
  • “Byham Theater” and “Pittsburgh Dance Council” are fighting for attention once you get closer
  • putting Pittsburgh Dance Council vertical seemed unnecessary and awkward
  • the colors are a bit basic

Post Crit Refinement

I tried to add more hierarchy since everything was looking a little flat. As I was changing things around the flow of the figure placement was becoming awkward to I began to shift them around more.

I played around with the figures and tried to use the arms to create leading lines in my layout. I wanted to create asymmetry, but also point to the text. I used the purple lines to point to Pittsburgh Dance Council, and the direction it was “moving” in (I wanted it to look like the figure was pulling it off the page from left to right to add motion). The blue line to alludes to the left side of the page where the text about the performances are.

  • I added grain to add texture + noise/excitement/energy


This was my first time really creating a layout with text and image and using hierarchy, so I appreciated the breakdown of this project. I learned a lot from the exercises in the beginning and it definitely made it less overwhelming for me to approach my poster. I found that I was drawn to simplicity, and empty space during this project. I think part of the reason for this was that simplicity lends itself towards more successful hierarchy. However, I also think it was just easier for me to stick to less busy compositions since it was my first time creating a poster layout. Before this project creating layouts with text and image intimidated me and didn’t feel natural. However, now, in learning about different types of hierarchy (scale, alignment, color, weight, etc.) and in putting them all together I feel much more comfortable with this way of thinking.