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Use Depth Cues to Indicate Importance/Activity Level

This principle is familiar to users of windows-based interfaces: Items that appear to be in the foreground of the screen are interpreted as having an increased importance or level of activity. This importance/activity level is reduced as the items appear to move further into the background. There are a number of ways of indicating depth on a two-dimensional screen. These include:

Size: Larger objects appear closer.
Interposition: Overlapping objects appear closer.
Contrast, Clarity, Brightness, Texture:
    Increasing any of these makes an object appear closer.
Shadow: Perceived as if it were
    coming from a viewer-centered light source.