How do you establish rhythm in design? It is similar to music - there is a visual "beat" to how you look at something. The beat could be color, color, TYPE, or PICTURE, picture, picture, LINE. Think of the design elements like counting beats in music, 1,2,3 or 1,2,3,4. There are half notes (pieces that are equally strong in color and type, for example.) And there are long notes, four full beats of a full page photo or just type. The "full beat" design is calculated to have you hang on the entire image and let it impact you. A good example is the think different Apple ad campaign (one example is the Yoko Ono and John Lennon ad below.)
Design is music in visual form. Whenever I am struck by the balance of a work I feel the 'music' behind the design. The rhythm creates the bones of the work to help guide the viewer. The Man with the Golden Arm poster, circa 1955, by the great designer Saul Bass is a wonderful example of "visual music." The pieces of the design dance on the page causing a vibration that varies from bold and sharp, to a light "melody" created by the type floating above the solid black elements.
I would love to ask various designers to show their work and see if they can remember what type of music they may have been listening to during the process of creating it (if any.) I think it would be an interesting experiment to see how the music may have influenced the visual rhythm of their work.
The next time you look at a great book cover, billboard or movie poster see if you can "hear" the design.