Elements and Principles of Design - Emphasis


special stress laid upon, or importance attached to, anything; intensity or force of expression, action, etc.

Related Concepts


Emphasis is used by artists to create dominance and focus in their work.

Artists can emphasize color, value, shapes, or other art elements to achieve dominance.

Various kinds of contrast can be used to emphasize a center of interest.

Emphasis in Fine Art

Henri de Toulouse Lautrec - At the Moulin Rouge
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec - "At the Moulin Rouge", 1892/1895

The emphasis in de Toulouse-Lautrec's painting is on the atmosphere and the strange lighting and color in a Paris cabaret. Actually, we are drawn into the five-member group of people seated at the table, where emphasis is on conversation among friends. This center of interest is otherwise known as a focal area.

Focal areas emphasize the most important aspect of a work of art. Visual emphasis on a focal area can be achieved by using the strongest light and dark value contrasts. It can also be developed by using other strong contrasts of art elements, such as shape.

Source: Elements and Principles of Design: Student Guide with Activities, published by Crystal Productions


Emphasis in Graphic Design

Emphasis is also known as dominance in graphic design.

What is it?

Why is important?

How to achieve it

Through the use of some elements:

What is dominant here?

Variable Factors

A number of design components affect or modify what we see, but are not constant because they represent changeable relationships between the viewer and the scene. These relationships are called variable factors. Such factors as scale, proportion, distance, observer position, atmospheric conditions, light, seasons, and motion are important considerations which the designer should be aware of and which may be used effectively in proposed designs.