CalArts: Funds. of Graphic Design-W4: 4.8 Cropping and Hierarchy

Understanding visual hierarchy is really important for designers. We’ve seen how particularly scale and space in our compositions can help us with that, but if we try and now look at this individual photograph, and deconstruct this.

And try and look at it how it’s functioning, and how it’s compositional hierarchy is working, we can see some of the same things are gonna come into play. Ideas of space and ideas of scale.

So I would argue that the primary thing that we look at, the number one thing in the hierarchy, is actually the two people that are at the front.

It’s partly scale. It’s partly position. It’s partly a little bit of space around them.

But also they’re the lead, planear element. In other words, if we divided this image up into planes, they would be in the first plane. They would be in our foreground.

So let’s see where our eye would travel from there.

I would argue that our eye would travel in the direction of the perspective.

So our hierarchy might go one, two, three.

And we’d see the scale reducing. And this would really be reflective of the very powerful perspective in this photograph.

I also think you’d be looking at the human figure a lot. 
So, you’d be drawn to the human figure rather than, say, some of the other elements, such as a tree, or a sign. Or some of the architectural elements even.

So our final piece in the hierarchy would probably be this last map or graphic that’s on the wall on the side of the building,

partly because it’s one of the few elements that bleeds. 
On the top and on the bottom, 
the image goes off, out of the frame, 
but it’s also quite a contrasting and dark part of the image.

So this would be a simple analysis of the hierarchy of this image.


I think you could also perhaps make the case that the girl standing here is perhaps higher up in the hierarchy and more important, partly because of the framing of the space around her, but that’s being taken away by this perspective. So another to maybe try and analyze this image and see how that’s working, is to look at where you think your eye goes as a viewer. What kind of direction does this photograph have?

I think we can see that our entry point is probably here. And we lead our way into the other faces. But then if we don’t follow this perspective line, if we’re actually drawn to this other figure. You can see that our eye might come over here. And then our eye might follow her eye line over to this graphic.

We would travel maybe down a little bit, and back with the strong perspective lines. Back to these figures in the distance.

And then either out to the vanishing point, the bright spot of the image.

Or we might follow the persons gaze here from one person to another person.

Now what this kind of mapping doesn’t really tell you, 
is the speed at which your eye moves,
and how much time you spend with each part of the image.

So it might be that you come into the image here, and very rapidly travel along this line and linger for much longer on this figure, and then rapidly travel back to this figure, and you might then spend more time at this vanishing point. One more time looking at this gaze. Some times even though there can be parts of an image that seem that they are very important, you’ve really got to think about what are entry points, how does the eye move around a image, and how long does the eye spend on that image.

And as a designer that is something that you want to control. 
You want to control how a viewer reads or understands that image, and a big part of that is actually how the image is cropped.

So cropping is basically when you take away some space from the left edge, the right edge or the top, or the bottom of an image. By doing so, you reframe it, and change its composition.


And cropping is actually a very powerful tool. Sometimes quite small moves can really alter the composition and alter how you read the composition.

So you can see here, just by actually taking away a little bit of space on the right hand side we’ve made this element much more dominant.

Now that it bleeds on three sides, it actually comes to the foreground much more and now it’s competing with our figures that were our entry point before. So this is maybe not a good idea to crop that image. And you can see if we crop the right hand side, it makes this image feel more dominant and it maybe makes our perspective lines here feel a little bit cramped. There’s a little less room for our eye to move around the image and to also, If we looked at our direction at the end we’re trying to come back down the image here, and now that’s gone. You can see how cropping can drastically affect how the eye moves around an image.

So let’s take those crops away and now let’s look and see what happens if we take a little bit of the image from the top and the bottom.

So you can see if we take some from the top here, it doesn’t seem to dramatically affect it that much. If anything it puts a little bit more emphasis on the perspective of the figures here.

If we take some off the bottom, it’s quite interesting.

Because now we have much more of a horizontal emphasis to our image. We notice the relationships between the heads a little bit more. This horizontal line becomes more dramatic, it’s fighting less against the vertical perspective lines, and that becomes quite interesting I think.

Also if you see there the figure has been cropped slightly at the bottom and so that leads, makes, gives this figure a little bit more dominance. Makes, pushes this figure a little bit more into the foreground.

Then the reason why this cropping is so important for designers is that often you’re given images from somebody else, from a photographer, or an illustrator.

Sometimes you need to make those images work a little bit better. And cropping can be quite a useful tool in order to get images to do a little bit of what you want to do. And sometimes that’s formal or aesthetic, and sometimes that can be to do with meaning.

So let’s go back to our original image, and let’s see what happens if we were to crop this in a much more drastic fashion.

I’m just gonna keep the frame the same size but basically we’re gonna be enlarging the image and focusing on different areas of it, just to see how it changes meaning.

So here you can see we have zoomed into the image a little bit, and this changes really how we read the images. It’s changing the focus of what we’re looking at.

So, now you can see here, we’ve got these figures are much larger. We’re maybe more interested in the relationship between these two figures.

We can actually see some emotion on people’s faces, and we’re starting to connect that, and try and facilitate some meaning out of it. You can also see that our composition has obviously, quite dramatically changed as well.

If we pan across to the right here,

you can see that we start to change the meaning of the image. We’re not just changing the composition, but we are changing how we might feel about this image.

Suddenly, we look at this one group of figures, and then a more isolated figure over here. And we might start to think about the activity, or the event that’s happening in the image, and feel empathy for this character, or feel that this character is isolated.

Another way that we could look at how cropping and zooming in an image works, is if we zoom in a little bit further and make a lot of the figures here bleed at the edge of the frame.

Part of what that does is it implies that there is perhaps more activity outside of the frame, more people, so suddenly this feels like perhaps there was a lot more people that were participating in this walk than maybe just the figures when we could see space around them.

You can see as we’ve cut into these figures now, there’s much more dynamic kind of diagonals from the forms of the people.

And we’re actually getting, much more of the composition is relying on the figures in the umbrellas. Now all the architecture has gone entirely.

And if we make an extreme crop and take all the people out and focus much more on the architecture.

You can see how it has a very different feeling. This definitely feels sort of quieter and perhaps more melancholy ภาวะเศร้าโศก, ภาวะจิตใจห่อเหี่ยว, ความหดหู่.

And there becomes a little bit of humor, with the Jets cap here and the umbrellas.

But it becomes much more about kind of architecture in the rain versus our cropped image of the people, which seems much more like people out on a walk having fun.

If we go back over to figure on the right hand side,

you can see how by isolating and focusing in on this figure. 
We can get a totally different mood.

Now, we’ve already got just one person to look at with much more aware of what’s happening inside this photograph.

I think one of the things that’s interesting to me about this crop, is just looking at the figure’s hand here, is quite unusual in a focal point. You’ve got her face to look at. There’s these strong diagonals that are being echoed through here. 
And so this seems like quite an interesting crop.

And we could keep going and be somewhat more extreme. And crop this image even more.

Take the emphasis away from the girl’s face, try and really emphasize the strangeness of the hand, the diagonal of the umbrella, the diagonals of the architecture.

So you can see how really, it’s not just the formal qualities that are changing, but also the meaning of the image, but also the feeling of the image as well. And designers really want to control all of those three things.