Information Value, Salience, and Framing of Composition


All the layouts and how they place pictures and texts have a meaning in advertisements and billboards for example. In the book called “Reading Images” by Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen, one of the chapters, “The Meaning of Composition,” explained how advertisers, for example, think about how they want to share information with the audience.

There are three important principles of composition that print media follow: information value, salience, and framing.

  • Information value: tells us information value attached to the various “zones.”
  • Salience: made to attract the viewer’s attention
  • Framing: disconnects or connects elements of the image, signifying that they belong or do not belong together.

I did not think this much detail was involved in making a composition or on a design. These principles make it easier to read and be organized.


In composition, there are Given and New, for example, Given would be on the left side and the New would be on the right side of a page. The authors stated, “for something to be Given means that it is presented as something the viewer already knows as a familiar and agreed-upon point of departure for the message. For something to be New means that it is presented as something which is not yet known, or perhaps not yet agreed upon by the viewer, hence as something to which the viewer must pay special attention.” This idea is also used in film and television, which I never thought that they did; however, if I actually think about it now that I know they do, they really do use this structure as well.

In addition, there is also Ideal and Real and they can be presented as what is Ideal on the top and what is Real at the bottom. Moreover, information value can be from center and margin, such as having a picture in the middle and texts around it. With all of these structures, the authors said, “Given-New an Ideal-Real can combine with Centre and Margin.”

For salience, “regardless of where they are placed, salience can create a hierarchy of importance among the elements, selecting some as more important, more worthy of attention then others.” For example, on an advertisement poster, one might have a product really big and really bright so it will capture the viewers’ eyes.


For framing, “the more the elements of the spatial composition are connected, the more they are presented as belonging together, as a single unit of information.” Some of the things that have different ideas can be framed so the viewers will know that they do not belong together.

Lastly, I thought this phrase from the reading summarized what the reading was about and how people think about when creating a design: “Increasingly many texts (newspapers, billboards, comic trips, advertisements, websites) are of this kind. They offer the reader a choice of reading path and even more so than in the case of texts where a plausible reading can be discerned, leave it up to the reader how to traverse the textual space.”

Overall, I thought what they have stated were very interesting and very important. I did not think about how much effort and thinking people put when creating a design for something, but now that I know what is happening, I would like really pay attention to how they created things. I would like to incorporate these skills into my projects in the future.

Related Articles:
Formal Visual Analysis: The Elements & Principles of Composition
Elements and Principles of Design

Discussion Questions:
-Should we always incorporate Given-New and Ideal-Real on designs?
-Can we use salience on television and films?

For In Class Project: Info-graphic

For the info-graphic project, I would like to do it on:
-digital addiction
-Number of hours people spend on devices

Digital addiction, because technology is getting better each day and some people have become addicted to it where it affects their lives and how they live; how they spend their day. I think it would be really interesting to see the data of this.

Number of hours people spend on devices, because everyone has a phone now and most of them have smart phones. People are always on their phones, tablets, computers, etc. Looking at how many hours we spend on them will realize how much we need the Internet and technology.


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