The whole is other than the sum of the parts.

Kurt Koffka, 1910


As a design class, we shall seek to harness and reinforce our audience's (our users') natural tendencies to simplify and group together complex information. Those tendencies were studied a hundred years ago by German and Austrian psychologists who proposed a set of Gestalt principals that went on to profoundly influence our understanding of perception in visual art.

Hierarchy in graphic design refers to the visual cues that are decided upon to attract attention towards important elements on the screen. Design decisions should all lead to a more efficient understanding of the content being presented. What to place on top, what to place below, what to make bigger or smaller, what to group together and what to set apart are among the most impactful (and deceptively simple) choices a designer is confronted with.

Unlike a blank piece of paper, a web browser imposes a particular visual structure by default. Likewise HTML's specification favors certain content structures over others. Rather than trying to overcome these perceived challenges, it behooves us to style only that which will further our intention. Embracing the banality of defaults can tap into Gestalt's past experiences principle, and help whatever changes we do make stand out more confidently.

Homework

Read the short section on hierarchy in Ellen Lupton's Thinking With Type.

In 1960 Clement Greenberg captured modernism's essence as "...the use of characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself..."

Create a website composed of five or more HTML pages, linked together in some fashion, all sharing a CSS file. The content may be linear, interconnected, or hierarchical. Each page must contain an image and some text. If you wish, consider your proposition in relation to the permanence and/or ephemerality of information online. Feel free to deviate from that theme as long as you retain some critique (or analysis) of the web as form, medium, or source of culture. Come prepared to defend your work's intention. If the images or text are taken from a source that is not your own, I will ask you how the act of appropriation and your understanding of copyright fit into your thesis.