How To Make Your Publications Rock: Graphic Design and the Rule of Thirds

When I updated my iPhone’s software last week, I noticed that my phone’s camera now has a grid option. It divides the picture area into thirds each way, for nine equal squares. This is a handy graphic design thingy that improves my picture taking. How, you ask?

Lots of folks seem to think that the best place to put the subject of a picture is smack dab in the middle. This is not necessarily true: introducing the Rule of Thirds!

This graphic design concept has been around for a bazillion years; designers and photographers are taught about it pretty early on in their schooling. It’s surprising how many people don’t understand it, but it’s a pretty important design tool. In a nutshell, the rule suggests dividing a page into thirds vertically and horizontally – and placing important elements along the intersections of these lines. It leads to a more interesting looking page.

Illustration of Rule of Thirds

An example of the Rule of Thirds in composition. Note that the subject's not in the middle, yet the picture looks great.

Take a look at this example, courtesy of Wikipedia. If the tree was centred, we’d have a picture of a tree, period. Blah, c’est non? By moving the tree off centre and aligning it on the grid, it becomes more attractive to our eye. Centred, it’s a tree. Placed according to the rule of thirds, and it becomes a bit of a visual vacation, an oasis in a desert of boring, looks-like-it-was-done-in-a-home-office lookalikes. Our eye is drawn to it and wants to rest there for a minute. And having enriched the world with this visual gift, we feel more like graphic designers.

This doesn’t just apply to how you place your subjects in a picture. You can employ it on the printed page, as well; the placement of text, headlines, and graphic elements are all fair game and can be used to spice up your business documents. Try placing a block of text so it fills up two thirds of the page each way, and stuff it into a corner. Then balance it off with the title or a headline somewhere in the remaining white space. There’s a great page with some illustrations of this here (It’s about half way down the page, but the whole post is worth reading). Thanks to DesignFestival.com for their informative blog!

When you’re looking at a particularly nice magazine, try dividing it up into thirds in your mind’s eye and note where everything fits. Interesting!

And of course, that reflects well on your business. Having attractive looking publications and websites should be an important part of establishing your brand, because it says a lot about who you are.

What do you think?