In the below stated images, what do you think helps us to seamlessly flow through the design without any interference?
Imagine if this was just one dot, line or brick; would it still feel the same and have a seamless experience?
Probably not! This is because repeating elements in the design creates flow. When our eyes land on an element with certain characteristics, we tend to seek other elements in the layout with similar features.
When we place more than one element on the page, we create a pattern and a pattern is the seed of the rhythm. Rhythm activates space and leads the visitors through the design.
The term ’rhythm’ is a word we commonly use, but perhaps not the one we associate with design. In this blog we will explore rhythm in the context of visual elements of a design, how we create it, types of rhythm, where do we usually find rhythm on websites and how designers can leverage it easily.
What is Rhythm?
As a design principle, rhythm is the patterned repetition of elements in space. Apart from the repetition of elements, the interval or whitespace between them is also a determining factor causing rhythm. While perceiving the whitespace that exists between elements, we create a sense of organised movement, somewhat similar to a musical beat.
Designers usually alternate the positive element with whitespace to create a pattern, which then repeats and varies itself to create rhythm. We can create rhythm by:
- Repetition that creates a pattern through predictability
- Alteration that creates a pattern by contrasting pairs (dark/light, thick/thin)
- Gradation that creates patterns through progression
Types of Rhythm
Rhythmic patterns are built from elements and the intervals between elements. The eye will follow the path of the rhythm. Designers can further plan and place elements to create a rhythm than randomly adding them. The three primary types of rhythms are:
i) Regular Rhythm
It occurs when the intervals between elements or the elements themselves are predictable or similar in size or length. This type of rhythm repeats the elements over a predictable interval. This sameness or repetition creates a less interesting rhythm and user experience.
The placement of these elements is usually in a linear path. Designers can repeat shapes, colours, patterns or other characteristics of the element over a regular interval or vary the interval to change the pace of the rhythm. Designers could also keep some characteristics constant while varying the others, for example, keeping size and shape constant while varying the colour of the elements. This variation would lead to interesting designs and higher engagement.
This type of rhythm occurs when the elements or intervals are organic. These patterns create a sense of movement. Typically, each element is unique yet similar over each interval. A good example of this type of rhythm are the stripes on a tiger or zebra.
This rhythm creates natural patterns that evoke a feeling of organic movement. The designers could add elements in an organic manner over each interval or the interval itself could be organic.
This rhythm occurs when a sequence of elements, forms or shapes is shown through a progression in visual characteristics. The elements or shapes repeat over an interval with some variation and graduation, that is usually pregressive.
The size, colour or other characteristics of the element changes over each interval and is pregressive in nature. These characteristics gradually increase or decrease creating a sense of direction over the sequence. This variation leads to more visual tension and interest and directs the user’s eyes along the progression.
A colour gradient is an example of progressive rhythm. Gradually decreasing the size or intensity of colour creates a linear perspective directing the visitors eyes to a vanishing point.
Common Places to Find Rhythm on a Website
Remember, rhythms are repeated patterns and while designing a website, we often repeat elements. Let’s discuss some of the places where we most commonly find rhythm in websites.
Navigation bars: the navigation and menus we create always contain repeated items.
Links: The colour and general characteristics of the link in the website creates repetition.
Indexes: These typically list several posts with similar visual format (title, page number, read more, images). This could be blog or book indexes.
How to use rhythm to design your website?
Rhythm is a patterned movement derived from repetition. When visually present in a design, it engages the user, creates interest and leads the eye from one element to another. Wonder how web designers incorporate rhythm in the website designs?
This website design demonstrates all three types of rhythm.
The grids containing the images creates a regular rhythm in the layout. The patterns and colour scheme at the top and bottom of the page are different. These colours are contrasted and located on a dark background that occurs in the middle of the layout as a horizontal line. When perceived together, they create a rhythm throughout the layout. The designer also includes the horizontal shape of the illustration and horizontal elements that create a rhythm.
The navigation bar at the top and the bottom of the page includes hand illustrated lettering causing a sense of flow and movement rhythm. The texture in the background and strokes in the illustration seem organic thus giving a natural look.
The shapes in the illustration attenuating towards the right creates a progressive rhythm in the shapes. You may also observe a series of circles in the illustration that progress towards the intervals. The 3 faces in the starting of the layout also create a sense of rhythm.
Doesn’t this layout feel seamless? This website design displays an immediate rhythm. If you notice, every section on the page is about the same height and is contrasted by different background colours. These colours alternate between light and dark to create rhythm of value down the page.
Each section is connected with a series of repeating lines and dots with endpoints in each section. This demonstrates a sense of connection. These lines and dot segments vary, even though the interval between them is fairly consistent. They lead the eyes from one section to the next and facilitate a rhythmic movement.
If you notice the third section, there are several icons on the right side. These icons vary in their shape and space between them creating a flowing rhythm.
Several sections contain circles progressing in size creating yet another type of rhythm. Background texture, lists and connecting lines throughout create rhythms throughout the layout.
Conclusion Whether designers plan it or not, as soon as they place multiple elements on the layout, design exhibits patterns and rhythm.Human mind seeks patterns and naturally perceives them. We find regular and predictable patterns soothing and engaging.
Designers can create rhythm in their design by repeating and varying elements over whitespace at varied intervals. A good visual rhythm will cause the user’s eyes through the pattern. The predictability of the rhythm by repetition of elements leads to anticipation that further directs the visitors to flow.Variation in the design facilitates interest in the rhythm. It avoids monotony and holds occasional surprises for the visitors.
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