Dominant images are a key part of design in print, on websites and in large outdoor and indoor environments. The dominant image provides the focal point. On a webpage it tells you where to look first. In a large hall, it let you know where you are. On a page it sets the stage for the story.
Have you ever looked at a brochure of postage-stamp-sized photos and equal blocks of copy? It is symmetrical, but at the same time it is boring because there is no eye flow — if everything is important, nothing stands out. Every great photo and every great painting has a natural place that attracts your eye. Horizontally it is in the center, vertically it is just above center. Take a look at any painting and the most powerful part is usually located near visual center. You look at Mona Lisa’s mouth and you think she isn’t smiling. You look at her eyes and it looks as if she is smiling.
The power of dominance in design can even be seen at business locations. The sign tells a lot about the kind of business and if you think this is going to be a good experience or not. (Yes, there are locations where no sign can be powerful such as the French Laundry Restaurant in the Napa Valley, but those are the exceptions, not the rule.)
P.F. Chang’s is known for its large artwork outside the restaurant. It is a strong visual cue that the restaurant is near and that the experience will be something special. Signs can be lost in busy cities and malls, but large horse artwork stand out in a crowd.
The next time you are lost on a website, check and see if a large dominant visual is missing.