Leadership Apprentice – February 15

Writing Class

In all of your writing this week, remember C.O.P.S…. Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation & Spelling.

DESIGN BASICS PART IV – Focus and Emphasis

Here we go again.  We are starting to learn about using the building blocks of art and design to create actual designs. We’ve talked about the ELEMENTS that are used to create a design. Last month we learned about BALANCE. This month we will learn how to create FOCUS & EMPHASIS.


Elder Uchtdorf talks about focussing on the important things in life. How can this talk translate to thinking about visual art and design? How can a focus help you communicate your ideas?

What is FOCUS? Focus is defined as 1. the center of interest or activity, or 2. the state or quality of having or producing clear visual definition. Thing of the focus on a camera, or if a photograph is considered “in focus” or “out of focus.” Where is the image clear? What is your eye drawn to look at? EMPHASIS is a similar word to focus. It means a special importance, value, or prominence given to something. The emphasis is the center of attention- the head honcho, the big cheese, the top dog. It’s basically the most important thing. So in simple terms- the focus or emphasis in a given design is what communicates the story you are trying to tell. What is the most important part of the image? Where should people look to see the message you want them to get?

We will explore the next principle of design – FOCUS & EMPHASIS. But first- let’s take a quick look at a duck.

How easy is it for you to see that duck? Would you say it is the focus of the image? Do you feel it has been given any kind of emphasis to suggest it is important for the viewer to see?

How about this one?

Is this one easier? Where does your eye go? What makes these images easier or harder to look at? Sometimes we want to tell everything in the story. If we aren’t careful, our story(the duck) can get lost in all the details(the tall grass). Focus and emphasis will help us learn how to tell exactly what we need to tell.

I want you to get a timer, or you can count in your head if you want. I will put a link below to a website. I want you to look at that website for ten seconds then close it down. After you are done read some questions here to think about. Don’t read the questions first, and don’t look for more than 10 seconds.


Okay- Here are the questions I want you to think about. 1. What is the main focus of the website? What drew your eye? 2. What do they want you to do? What is the goal? 3. How are you to accomplish that goal? Is it clear?

Okay. Let’s try another. 10 seconds only! Ready? CLICK HERE!

What is the focus of that one? Where do they want you to look? What do they want you to do? How do you do it?

What’s the difference between these two websites visually? I would argue that the second one is focussed while the first one doesn’t know what it wants you to do. It doesn’t know if it’s trying to sell cars or be fun to look at, or make you sick. This is the power of good, clean, simple design with a focus.

Watch this:






One of the big ways that these resources talked about for creating Focus or Emphasis is CONTRAST.

Any type of difference in imagery will result in that element becoming a focal point. Difference or contrast can come in many different forms.  Color, value, texture, shape, and form can all create contrast.  By combining elements, you can increase the contrast that is created, thus strengthening the focal point.

Our ducks up above are a great example of Contrast. In the first example there is very little contrast of any kind between the duck and the background. Thus resulting in a lack of focus. The mama duck and her ducklings however have several different types of contrast happening. They are clean and crisp, full of details, while the background is blurred with very few details. The ducks are warm and the rest of the image is cooler. Most of the image is blues and greens, and the orange beaks are complementary to the blu background. The lightest part of the image is the highlights on the beaks and the rim lighting around their heads.

Look at the slideshow about Contrast on this blog: https://juliannakunstler.com/art1_pd_contrast.html

Contrast helps us see the world around us. Without shadows we wouldn’t see the form of objects. Without the differences in everything, we would basically be blind.

Watch a movie. May I suggest the Iron Giant, or you can watch anything you want. Tell your mom it’s for homework. Write down how the film makers create focus or emphasis visually. Pause the movie and take some pictures. Is the film maker using any of the principles discussed above? How does he use contrast? Does he use framing, implied lines, or color?

FIND: Look for other examples of design that utilize different methods to create focus or give emphasis.

  1. Bring 3 examples to class with you. Be prepared to explain what methods the designer used to create the focus. 
  2. Optional – You are always encouraged to find any examples of Design that you like. They need not be directly related to the subject at hand. Bring it with you to class and be prepared to tell us why you like it.
  3. Another Optional – Look for an example of bad Design. Something that just doesn’t work well. The message isn’t clear. You may start noticing some things. Bring it with you to class and be prepared to tell us why you don’t like it.

CREATE: Do some designs. You don’t need to do them all. But do some. Choose 2. Or do a few of one…

  1. Print off a couple copies of this page. Click Here. Can you color it differently to create different points of focus?
  2. Take some photos incorporating the different types of CONTRAST. Try to create interesting compositions.
  3. Create an image with a single focal point. This can be random shapes, stick figures or narrative illustration. Whatever you want to try. It can be drawn, collage, finger painted, made of rocks & photographed- I don’t care – but make something, and use principles and elements learned to create a focus or emphasis.


  HAVE FUN!! Design is fun. 

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