You’ll find many definitions for the term focal point. Some are scientific in nature, and others relate more to the arts and home design. In science, the term may be defined as the place where rays of light converge. It can also be used, as in work with lasers, to discuss the area onto which a laser is directed. If you were having laser hair removal, for instance, each hair follicle would constitute a focal point.
These more recent definitions are derived from the term as used in art, principally in painting and drawings. The focal point in a painting is the place to which the eyes are drawn. This is often the most dominant or interesting part of a picture. Though you can examine other details of a picture/photograph or other works of art, your eyes will continually lead you back to the main or focal point. The focal point may be used to express something important thematically.
The term can then be applied to architecture and design, both interior and exterior. A house or building may have an exterior focal point, one that attracts your attention. Rooms can also have a specific area of interest or include a dominant feature. When you don’t pay attention to design, you can sometimes inadvertently have unattractive focal points, like large furniture installations, holes in walls, places where paint doesn’t match and et cetera.
Advertisers work very hard to create visual focal points in print ads and television, and so do people who work in merchandising and store display. If you’ve ever seen the television show, America’s Next Top Model or others like it, you know models are frequently taken to task when they don’t do enough to showcase items that might be featured in an advertisement. In one commercial for Cover Girl®: foundation, for instance, one contestant picked up a large cocktail while entering a party scene, thus diverting focus from the makeup. The drink instead of the makeup became an undesirable focal point. Focus in an advertisement attempts to be product-centered and tries not to distract from the main thing being advertised by creating mixed messages.
You can additionally apply the term focal point to describe the points or a main point a writer wishes to focus on in a piece. When the writing is good, the actual point or points the writer wishes to make emerge well and become the dominant themes. “Having a point” in writing is synonymous with creating focal points, which will be remembered by the reader.