All great designs use composition. Photography, film, music, and other creative works use composition. In graphic design, composition (AKA page layout) refers to organizing the elements of design (line, color, shape, etc.) on a page to communicate a message to the viewer. If you want to achieve a great design, there are some rules to keep in mind. Here are 5 rules of composition that graphic designers should use in their designs.
The rule of thirds is the way you see a layout of a design. Engraver and painter John Thomas Smith first wrote about the rule of thirds in his book Remarks on Rural Scenery. In the book, Smith uses this rule to balance dark and light in a painting. To use the rule of thirds in design, you place a grid that’s equally divided into thirds (horizontally and vertically) onto space you’ll use for your design. The grid forms nine boxes. These boxes are used to layout your design. With the rule of thirds, you can create a focal point in your design that you want the viewer to focus on.
In designs that use the rule of odds, an odd number of subjects is used. This helps to make designs more dynamic. In addition, it’s best to use no more than 5 subjects in a composition because the human brain usually can’t process more than 4 – 6 objects at once.
The third rule, rule of space, is used to create the sense of movement. This rule consists of both positive and negative space. Positive space refers to the objects or shapes in a design. Negative space (or white space) refers to the area around and between the objects in a design. Both type of spaces works together to create a unified composition.
With simplification, compositions take complex details and make them less complicated. This helps the viewer to focus better on the primary object(s) in a design. We see simplification used in things such as street signs and app symbols on our cell phones. In graphic design, you see simplification used in logos, posters, icons, etc.…. Using geometric shapes and symmetry in a composition is one way to achieve simplification. Leaving things out of your design is another way to achieve simplification. For example, if you were drawing a logo for a dog food company, you don’t have to draw a whole dog. You can draw part of a dog’s face or something simpler to symbolize that the logo is related to dog food.
Visual hierarchy is the way you arrange design elements to show visual importance in a composition. You want to lead the viewers’ eyes in a specific direction when looking at your composition. Varying the size of typography, using colors, and spacing creates visual hierarchy.
On your next design project, these 5 rules of composition are some of the fundamental rules you should apply in your designs. For more graphic design articles check out this article on the best graphic design software of 2021.