The Rules of Design Composition and Layout

To get better at any art form you have to understand the specific tools and procedures that make it. In a way the elements of graphic design is like being a chef and making a cake, if the ingredients are laid out in front of you and the principles of design is the recipe that you use to make the meal then it’s the same as thinking of the design layout and composition being the final plating.

The Grid

A lot of designers see and invisible grid in all of their designs as grids make your design cleaner, more efficient and easier to adapt. Having a grid will bring organisation to your design as well as the process of creating design. By doing this your design will be instantly consistent as you spend less time updating and adjusting it.

Emphasis and Scale

The eye needs something of interest to hold it otherwise people will look at your design and just move on. Say you take a photo of your family, but you want the focus point to be on your Dad, the purpose of making him the subject and focal point of your composition will bring attention to the moment. So, the viewer knows that your Dad is the focal point you need to use scale and emphasis. You could either place in him in the middle of the photo and make sure that he is the larger object in the photo or you could blur out the background to make him stand out.

The focal point of your design will guide the eye to the structure of the composition as well as organically building hierarchy.


When designing you will have to constantly juggle different elements to make your design perfect. Imagine a set of invisible scales in your designs, make sure you don’t tip the scales by adding loads of elements to one side of you design.

Always remember that white space is an element. Having white space will give your eyes a path to follow. If you give each element on the page some space to breathe and balance between positive and negative space, it will start to emerge organically. When you move the elements in the design closer together it will make the design cluttered because you will shrink the negative space and disrupting the balance of the piece.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is the most important rule in design as it is a fundamental guideline that is simple but really effective. To do this rule, divide your design into three rows and three columns, the points where the vertical and horizontal lines meet will form your natural guidelines for where you should place your subjects and elements. If your struggling to find balance in your designs, then the rule of thirds will be your new favourite!

Rule of Odds

The rule of odds says that a pleasing composition seems to have an odd number of elements that are placed in the foreground, this is normally 3. The other two objects on the outside will balance the focal point that is in the middle, this also creates a natural balance. This is probably a rule you will use a lot if you design logos.

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