Don't just make it different - make it very different

Posted by

I'm not a designer. Yet, in order to create (i.e. design) more effective slides, you need to be familiar with at least a few of the basic principles of design.

One example that I use (in the book as well as in the workshop) is the Rule of Thirds. Instead of dividing your slide into four equally sized pieces (two horizontally, two vertically) and aligning your elements along those lines (i.e. centring them), divide the area into nine pieces (three horizontally and three vertically) and use the resulting grid for alignment.

Centring makes things look nice and orderly (and sometimes that's exactly what's needed) - but also a bit boring. Moving things off-centre makes for more visually interesting slides.

Now, I'm often asked if the Rule of Thirds is related to the Golden Ratio. It's not. For the Golden Ratio, the canvas is separated at a ratio of approximately 5:8 whereas for the Rule of Thirds it's obviously 1:2. I've come to the conclusion, however (and any designers reading this please correct me if I'm way off-base), that both are just variations of one of the basic design principles, which is:

If you make it different, make it very different.

Putting things in the centre of a slide makes it look nice and orderly. Putting them slightly off-centre makes it look odd - as if you made a mistake. Putting things deliberately way off-centre makes it look interesting again.

So whether you prefer the Golden Ratio or the Rule of Thirds (or something else entirely) doesn't really matter that much. Just make sure it's really obvious that you wanted things to be off-centre. As designer Robin Williams puts it: Don't be a wimp.

Thanks to Pierre Morsa for helping me understand these things better.

(Image Credit: Rivertree 1 md by Moondigger, from Wikimedia Commons)

You will be asked to confirm your newsletter subscription. Powered by MailChimp.
If you'd like me to talk or write about this topic, you can hire me to do so.
Please email me for details.
Creative Commons Licence "Don't just make it different - make it very different" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.