Design Tips, Web & Graphic Design

A Rule You Can Break!

As part of our commitment to provide quality and accessible design education in the Shoalhaven, we continue our email series on the key design concepts and elements required for great design.


There is an age old dilemma for artists – filling a blank canvas. Like artists, designers also begin with an empty canvas in the form of a page.

In this email we discuss one of the first principles of design that is key to building the foundations for fulling a page:


Most individuals, businesses and even some designers focus on the creation of documents without first understanding placement and how crucial it is to design.

Imagine a beautiful artwork hidden under a pile of rubble. The quality of the artwork is unaffected by where it is, but without proper placement, the message and beauty of the artwork cannot be fully appreciated and will be obscured by what surrounds it.


One of the first and most basic decisions you need to make in terms of placement is where to place lines. Here we take a look at the horizontal line in three variations using a photograph. The same principles can be applied to a blank page.


Rarely is dead-centre effective placement for a horizon or horizontal line. Dividing a page, image or space this way not only lacks imagination but can be confusing.

When your audience look at an image or page divided exactly in half, they are left wondering where and which way to look – sky or earth? There is no dominant area that promotes emphasis or a focal point.

On the other hand, in this example the horizon line has been lowered and now provides emphasis on the sky.

If the photo is being used for advertising or a brochure, the photo with more space above the horizon line not only increases dramatic interest but it also provides space for a popping headline.

Determining which proportion of an image should dominate depends on the conceptual and practical use of the photograph.


In our last email we spoke about knowing the rules before your can break them. This one is no exception.

These days, most cameras and quality photo-editing software programs provide grid lines that are designed to assist the photographer/photo-editor in better horizon line placement.

As shown in the example below, the horizon is placed on the upper horizontal white grid line (or top third of the image).

This is a key photographic rule called the Rule of Thirds. This rule is used widely in many disciplines including design, architecture and art

However, we love a good rule-breaking and this is one of those rules that can have its boundaries pished. For example, by pushing the horizon line higher than shown you can create more extreme visuals and larger and impactful headlines.


When taking or choosing images or elements to put into your piece, always ask the purpose of the image and what feeling should it’s placement or horizon line lend to the overall piece. This will help to determine what cropping or placement is needed. It will also help you to consider any other elements being placed within or along side it.

Be decisive!

Placement of every element and division of space within an image or design should be consciously considered and compliment the theme of the piece you are creating.

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