|Rule of Thirds, Visual Center, Grids|
Uderlying most of the layouts on the previous pages are three related aspects of page layout and balance. These are layout principles that help the designer achieve arrangements with visual balance.
Rule of Thirds and Balance
The rule of thirds says that most designs can be made more interesting by visually dividing the page into thirds vertically and/or horizontally and placing our most important elements within those thirds. Take this concept a step further, especially in photographic composition, by dividing the page into thirds both vertically and horizontally and placing your most important elements at one or more of the four intersections of those lines.
Look at these previous balance examples and see how the rule of thirds is utilized. Below: In this vertically symmetrical layout the headline appears in the upper third of the page, the logo in the middle third, and the supporting descriptive text in the lower third. The most important information is in that lower third and anchors the page.
Below: This asymmetrical layout has most elements in the upper third and leftmost third of the page with the main focal point being around the intersection of the topmost and leftmost dividing lines.
Visual Center and Balance
Placing important elements or the focal point of the design within the visual center of a piece is another design trick. The visual center is slightly to the right of and above the actual center of a page.
See how the focal or center point of each of these designs actually falls in the visual center of the page. Below: It's easy to see the actual center, it's where the four box corners meet. But the focus is on the earth.
Below: In this calendar, the months emanate from the year located front and (visual) center.
Grids and Balance
Roughly dividing a page into thirds or finding the visual center are relatively easy and you don't usually have to be exact to achieve your goals. However, constructing the underlying structure of a piece is a bit more complicated but essential for most designs. Most balanced designs (and even unbalanced ones) rely on a grid. This invisible structure (visible while working in your page layout program) helps ensure that you place all the elements in the right location to achieve balance as well as to help with continuity and consistency of design.
Grids can be simple or complex depending on the needs of the design and the designer.
Sometimes the use of a grid is obvious. Below: This asymmetrically balanced design uses a simple three column grid to ensure that each text column is the same width and that it is balanced by the nearly empty column on the left. The grid also dictates the margins and ensures that the page number and header appear in the same place on each page.
Below: A 5x5 grid keeps this design in line. The grid is obvious along the bottom (each square equals one grid square in this layout) but it is invisibly keeping all those random letters in order in the middle.
Grids are an important tool in page layout and desktop publishing. This three-part supplemental material fully describes and illustrates the use of grids.
Grids: Order Out of Chaos
Design grids and their components.
Grids: Consistency & Unity
Use grids to unify design elements.
Grids: Flexible Options
Selecting the right grid; avoid that 'boxed in' look.
Look for examples of the use of the rule of thirds, visual center, and grids.
- Roughly divide several pieces in thirds vertically and horizontally looking for designs that seem to fall neatly into these sections. Does the main headline, focal graphic, or other key elements fall squarely within one of these thirds?
- Locate the visual center of several different pieces. How many designs put a key piece of information or focal point in this area?
- Can you 'see' the underlying grid in your samples? Find an example that appears to use a very simple grid. Find one that appears to use a more complex grid. In each case, how does the use of a grid help the designer achieve a balanced design?
Next > Balance Self-Test Assignment