Presentation Design: The Rule of Thirds

25 Jul

Have you heard of The Rule of Thirds?”

Unless you’re a designer, photographer or an artist, you probably don’t hear about it a lot.  It’s a standard in the design world, used by professionals in many fields in order to achieve harmonious, clear placement of a variety of design elements.  It’s a basic rule that, if followed correctly, greatly increases the value of images and text in any piece, (including a presentation) and the good news is that ANYONE can do it!

So, what is it?

Concerning presentations, The Rule of Thirds relies on the science of the human eye being attracted to certain “power points” (yes, this is just a strange coincidence) on the slides.  Below is a four-line, nine-square grid that is used as a guide for placing the various elements along lines and at points on the grid.

You can use the lines and points in a variety of ways.  For instance, you can place images or text along a vertical or horizontal line to showcase a very simplistic structure.  This option is best for basic imagery with little or no text.  In presentations, this style works very well for title slides, introductory slides or transitional slides.

You can also insert images or text directly on a power point to ensure that your audience’s eyes dart for the intended object or set of words.  This technique allows for an off-centered appealing style that places a huge amount of importance on the primary focal point.  Use this layout to make one very significant point to your audience.  This is meant to blatantly push your message out there, so choose your image wisely.

You can also insert text or images at a “common” point that intersects the vertical and horizontal lines in order to use multiple angles to declare your message.  This is a very useful way to combine words and pictures to fully illustrate a point while maintaining simplistic design.

Presentation guru and blogger Garr Reynolds weighs in on the issue on his blog, saying:

“The “rule of thirds” is a simplified version of the golden mean. The rule of thirds is a basic technique that photographers learn to frame their shots. Subjects placed exactly in the middle can often make for an uninteresting photo. The golden mean would be wonderful to apply when taking snaps, but obviously this is not practical. But a viewfinder can be divided by lines — real or just imagined — so that you have four intersecting lines or crossing points and 9 rectangles that resemble a tic-tac-toe board. These four crossing points (also called power points, if you can believe it) are areas you might place your main subject, rather than in the center.”

In order to properly obey The Rule of Thirds, you must first choose the right images to convey your message.  Then, you’ve got to determine the hierarchy of your images, meaning that you need to analyze the importance of the image as it concerns the entire piece.  Once you know what is most important to your central message, then you can designate where the element will be placed and how The Rule of Thirds can best bring out the meaning of each element. Now, all you’ve got to worry about is how the image will play along the power points and lines to be aesthetically pleasing.

So, what’s the best way to incorporate images into your presentation?

Well, there are 3 easy ways you can insert great graphics and text into your next presentation.

1. Find the image that already follows The Rule of Thirds

Most of the time, the image that you have in mind will not be your ideal choice for a design element due to size and quality restrictions. However, you may come across the correctly sized and positioned image, which makes the work that much easier.  As you go through images, just remember that the image must be cohesive with your message while resonating with your audience.  Always keep the feel and flow of your presentation in mind as you go through image selection.

2. Crop or scale the image to follow The Rule of Thirds

Whenever you come across the image that has your subject matter within its frame, but does not fit as a whole into your presentation, you will have to manipulate the image to fit into the frame of your presentation.  You can easily adjust almost any image to fulfill The Rule of Thirds unless the content of the image is too busy, resulting in a condensed, unusable version of the subject matter.  A simple image is a very versatile element that can be used as a supplement to your speech.  Use a striking or drastic image that works as a symbol to your message in order to make your words stronger.

3. Combine images and text so that one or both follow The Rule of Thirds

Using a combination of images and text allows for a flow of information and visuals to simultaneously enrich the slide.  You can place a set of words along a horizontal line, a single important word on a power point, or even the focal point of an image at a power point with accompanying text along an intersecting line.  There are tons of different directions you could possibly go, but just remember that the placement of images and text in The Rule of Thirds says a lot about your message.  In the end, it’s all about connecting with your audience.

So, there you have it.  This is an introductory explanation of The Rule of Thirds.  It is a very powerful tool that anyone can follow in order to provide an aesthetically pleasing slide while effectively showcasing and explaining your message.  Don’t hesitate to experiment, to try different images with bold text in new, exciting ways.  Always, always remember that your presentation needs to be an experience for your audience, not just a display of information and pictures.  Make them excited for the next slide.  Be wacky and crazy at times.  Be a riveting entertainer. Be bold!

What do you think?  Do you need any help following The Rule of Thirds?  We’re ALWAYS here to give you any tips or instructions whenever you need us!  If you’d like to see some of our work, contact our CEO at or view our YouTube channel.  Also, check out our Facebook page, tweet us or leave some comments below!



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