Join Ina Saltz for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating hierarchy using size, part of Typography: Hierarchy and Navigation.
Bigger is better. Larger objects have more power by their very nature whether it's a large image, a large piece of text or a combination of the two. Viewers immediately get the difference between larger and smaller sizes and they will instinctively gravitate to the largest elements first. So you want to be sure to use them to your advantage when indicating hierarchy. Tomb Raider is big, chunky, positioned at the top and contrasty.
The text in the red square is meant to read into the words tomb raider and the designer has done a nice job of aligning the box with the tomb raider text block. This text also works beautifully with the image. With the tilted head and the bow, both pointing toward the headline. So the image and the text are integrated. Products on store shelves really need to fight for attention. And they have a limited space in which to grab a shopper's attention. Pine-Sol is a venerable brand that has been standing out on store shelves for decades with it's big condensed bright yellow logo.
The large type size appears even larger because none of the other type on it's label even comes close in size. So, by comparison, the words Pine Sol are super dominant. In the order of visual importance, next, the shopper might see the text in the red strip, then the word original above the logo. And, then down at the bottom, the rest of the text. Whether or not you love this workhorse design, it is clearly very effective in indicating hierarchy.
I'd like to point out that the logo stands out beautifully from the dense, dark green pine tree background with its bright yellow color and also by using a black outline and a highlighted bevel effect. Magazine covers are complex situations which require a lot of hierarchical Fine tuning. Newsstand competition demands that a great deal of content must be featured on the cover. Don't be afraid to push the limits and go big, so your hierarchy is super clear.
This cover from Fast Company is a great example of a strong indication of hierarchy using size. Remember the theory of typographic relativity. Everything is percieved in relation to everything else. If everything is a similar size and weight, nothing stands out. Here's a more traditional use of size to indicate the main cover story. There's plenty of other typographical material packed onto this cover. But the hierarchy is obvious because of the sizes of the lines in relation to the main cover line.
And there's plenty of psace around each text cluster providing separatation. Notice the story build above the logo in the yellow bar. Many magazines use the space above the logo for a secondary cover story. There are exceptions to every rule. This special issue showing the blackout of half of Manhattan after Hurricane Sandy has only one cover line and it is tiny. But it's powerful despite its size because of the sweeping devastation of the image and because of the cover line's isolation in the sky.
Circumstances dictated this counter-intuitive approach to the design, which is extremely effective. Exceptions aside, think about how you can use size with confidence to create hierarchy in your projects. It's one more tool in your Typographic Tool box.