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Adding depth to your designs with visual tension

Visual tension is a compositional technique that uses framing to create dynamic elements in design – drawing the eye and provoking interest. It’s often used in photography to evoke a feeling of suspense, balance, or to pull the eye of the viewer, but it can be used in any type of design to intrigue the viewer. Here are three ways to incorporate visual tension into your designs to increase interest:

1) Utilize unusual color combinations
A quick way to draw attention or focus is with jarring color combinations – bold colors stand out and create a unique energy in a design. Think neon green on black or complementary colors like orange and blue. Playing these colors off each other can focus the eye on the most important aspect of a design.

2) Release yourself from the axis
Whether intentional or not, most design work is done on what is essentially a grid framework. The built-in anchor points and guides in Adobe Illustrator are a great example of this – almost anything can snap to grid on a design program like that. Freeing yourself from the tradition X/Y axis, however, is a great way to bring visual tension in an unusual way. Let some elements float on a non-traditional grid and see what they bring to your design work.

3) Try something unexpected
There are certain elements we take for granted – the sky is always blue, for example, or an alligator head will always be attached to an alligator body. Changing these assumed elements can surprise and intrigue a viewer, so consider trying something new and unexpected to drum up interest.


Visual tension isn’t something that needs to be employed in every aspect of every design, but it is a great way to engage the view and make your design un-ignorable. There’s no need to follow a specific format – do what you need to do to make your design stand out from the rest. Help getting started with eye catching designs, contact us today.

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