Rule of thirds gridThe Rule of Thirds is a simple concept to help you make better designs. I encourage you to research this rule to improve your book covers.

In the rule of thirds, you divide your canvas (or photograph, or book cover) into three equally-sized vertical and horizontal sections. This grid is a guide to help you choose where to place your design elements.

The spots where the lines intersect are the prime points of interest of your design. Any elements closer to one of the points will stand out more. By using this grid, you can achieve balance in your design.

What you want to achieve is “balanced asymmetry.” When we see something that is asymmetric, it signals our brain that something unusual is happening, so it catches our interest. By balancing asymmetric elements, your reader’s eye can comfortably view, understand, and follow the information you’re presenting.

With a rule of thirds grid, you know which parts of the canvas are key to your design. The bottom left and top right intersections are pretty much equally matched, so focusing elements in these areas creates easy balance. For example, if you have something important in the bottom left section, you don’t want something on the top left section overshadowing it. If you have something important at the top of the design, you want to balance it with something important at the bottom, to bring the viewer’s gaze down through the design.

Dave Ramsey book coverTake a look at this Dave Ramsey book cover. His face is an important element – his eyes are on the intersection of the top and right grid lines, which makes it feel like he’s looking right at you. This is visually balanced with the title below that is touching the bottom and left grid lines.

Home Body book coverWith this “Home Body” book by Joanna Gaines, notice how her body rests on the lower left intersection, and the title rests against the upper-right one.

For a very simple example, see how the “My Journal” at the top of the cover feels imbalanced, but is better balanced when touching the upper-right intersection to offset the weight of the image in the lower-left.

Two journals, side by side

One you’ve become accustomed to using the rule of thirds, it will come naturally, and you’ll start seeing it everywhere.

Rules, of course, are made to be broken. Once you are comfortable with this rule, challenge yourself to start playing with imbalance on your covers to set a mood, ignite a reaction, or tell your reader there’s something new and unusual inside.

If you’re serious about improving your design skills, Amazon has a bunch of great books, I like this one, that’s great for non-designers.

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