Visual Hierarchy: Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures

9/10–9/12/2020: Part 1

(above) home page + upcoming lectures
(left) New & Noted page; (right) example of an author speaker under New & Noted

3 Adjectives:

Descriptive Sentence/Their Mission:

Exploring and Analyzing Hierarchy:

(above) content I was assigned for the exercises + looking at content priority in the hierarchy
  1. Stroke Weights
1 + 2
3 + 4
1 + 2 + 3
1 + 2 + 3
1 + 2 + 3

Combining Stroke Weight + Other Exercises:

(above) composition type 1
(above) composition type 2
(above) composition type 3

9/15/2020: Part 2 Color + Scale


  • Picking one final solution from the previous exercises, explore color and how it could help with hierarchy.
  • Can try color with type, background or both.
  • Then, experiment with scale (two stroke weights only).
  • Can try changing the order of the content as well — go bold.


(above) color palettes created from cut magazine pages
(above) color palettes inspired by the magazine colors

Color in Text:

  • Helps visualize how a single color can strengthen hierarchy.
  • Looked at different colors with the same brightness shown in the website.

Color in Background:

  • Looks at how color can create a feeling of a certain thing, place, or event.
  • Colors turned out to be less saturated than expected, however, white words would be hard to see if color was extremely bright.
(above) the first thing I saw when I entered the website
(above) purple and blues — dark lecture hall inspired
(above) color compositions by everyone in class — the purple composition I made is on the furthest right


(above) 1 + 2
(above) 3 + 4
  • Play around with color more — how can you use two colors?
  • Be more bold with scale explorations, challenge the margins
  • Try emphasizing other things besides the content—bold+scale the authors instead of the main title?
  • Play around with smaller point fonts, should try go smaller than the 17 pt font
  • Title breaks— think about how spacing out the words can affect how it is being read: “Pittsburgh, Arts and Lectures” “Pittsburgh, Arts, and, Lectures” “Pittsburgh Arts, and Lectures”
  • Which of the colors “feel like the literary arts?” What type of energy?
  • Try to avoid vertical orientation of text, can be hard to read
  • Don’t make type hard to access, but also play with movement and action
(above) class notes

Trying It All Again:

Some notes:

  • Using a layout with line spacing doesn’t make the text too dense on the page, more breathable
  • Emphasizing “New & Noted” adds more intrigue than “Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures”
  • Warmer colors like yellow, red, and oranges feel more welcoming and less edgy(??) — what I associate books and literary arts with.

9/20/2020: Part 3 Image


  • Using an iteration from the previous exercise, consider how the use of an image can further communicate the message of the content.
  • Image can be a photographic or graphic (illustrated).
  • Image can cover entire page or sit behind type, explore how you can include this into the page.


  • Adjectives: educational, connected, timely
  • Plant imagery: connected life, new, growth, green, a nonliteral way of representing Arts & Lectures
  • Library: more literal representation — new books.
  • Hands, String: connectedness, very human.
(above) brainstorming image ideas

Plant Imagery:

1 + 2
(left) original image; (right) another plant picture I was considering
  • Orange and the green looks harmonious with each other, orange brings attention to emphasized content but doesn’t clash with the green.
  • 1st composition: author lectures split into 2 and 3 feels unnatural with uneven number of lectures, orange clashes a bit with the upper sprig, overlap is not as obvious.
  • 2nd composition: black “New & Noted” type makes the text to image integration more obvious, author lectures are together in a chunk by itself, content is read more clear.
  • Theres a big area of negative white space in the center of the poster however.

Cats Cradle:


  • Red pops out and puts emphasis on the title, however, the redness from the hands and arm draws some of that emphasis away.
  • Image shows meanings of connectedness with the string, however, overall concept of image doesn’t speak “Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures”
  • Personally like how the “New & Noted” is working with the strings into the image itself.
(above) the original images I wanted to use


Composition 1 + 2
(above) original image that was used
(above) blend layer + opacity settings
(above) blend + opacity layer applied
  • Color and scale of title brings effective emphasis to it even with so many things happening around it.
  • Using the luminosity blend mode on the image made the image feel very book/newspaper-like.
  • Orange-yellow background looks like parchment.
  • However, the background is a bit too orange, blends in a little too much with the orange accent texts.
  • Orange rectangles creates leading lines around the poster.
  • “Mo Rocca” gets special treatment due to the negative space around it.
  • Although small, Pittsburgh Arts & Lectures draws in the most attention also due to the negative space surrounding it.
  • Overall composition is ‘flatter’ than first one, no leading lines.

General Critique from Peers and Vicki:

  • “If first composition of the library image was the cover of a book, the second composition variation of it would be the inside of the book.”
  • Person in the image evokes a sense of wonder: “What is new? What’s more to explore?”
  • Good use of space, eyes can take in everything.
  • Already on a good start, leading lines are effective.
  • Tighten the clusters on the poster! Tighten everything! (Library poster)
  • Use grids to help further structure all the text, adds organization.
  • Look into metric vs optical kerning.
  • Think about adding a descriptive sentence that help make what the poster is about clearer to viewer.
  • Remember to not over spoil/overwork the tweaking and details.

9/24/2020 Final Iteration:

(left) original poster; (middle + right) figuring out what type of grid fits best
(above) experimenting with the addition of the descriptive sentence
(above) Final Poster ***red-orange prints out more red

Final Critique:


  • Image itself is pushed into the back of the poster, image is not what draws you in.
  • However, the colored boxes help frame the text with the image, helps with hierarchy.
  • If I had more time: recommend playing around with even more images.
  • Poster is very geometric, consider playing around with more shapes if I had more time!


  • There’s something different with the treatment of the image compared to other posters.
  • Something nice about the rectangles is that they aren’t over the board.
  • Color selection is nice.




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Sarah Xi

Sarah Xi

Hey! I’m currently studying design @CMU with a focus on communications design + minor in HCI. You can find some of the projects I’ve worked on here.