My Independence Day cards have already been posted so here's a sunny, cheerful card for a sadly rainy July 4th...and a design lesson to go along with it.
Someone asked a while back for a reason why the rule of threes and other odd numbers doesn't always apply. That rule says that odd numbers are generally more visually pleasing than even numbers. It's important to remember that these "rules" are more like "guidelines" than actual "rules."
Don't you hate unnecessary quotation marks?
Anyway, there are lots of reasons why two or four might work better than three, and they all have to do with all the other design concepts and principles, such as unity, balance, symmetry, harmony, line, color, shape, etc.
In the card above, the rule of thirds applies to the layout. Imagine a tight frame around the stamped area. Two-thirds of the inside of the frame is taken up with the sentiment, and one third is occupied by the flower. That third-ness is visually pleasing and creates a nice asymmetry to an otherwise completely centered design.
But color takes over from there. The two yellow elements are the stars of this show. Just two. Not three. Two. Note that there is more yellow area on the 2/3 side of the design than the 1/3 side, so the amount of color is proportionally balanced.
The color also plays on shape differences...lines and angles love curves. The sentiment is a definite, strong rectangle, but the flower center is a strong circle. That difference makes you look at both of them and put them in relationship with each other...thus unifying the design.
(Keep in mind that visual triangles are a very easy way to unify a design, but they are not the only way to unify it!)
Also, to contrast the bold and heavy use of yellow, there are very thin lines of black on each side...in reverse proportion to the size of each area...lots more black on the 1/3 side than the 2/3 side. The asymmetry creates a kind of visual tension that makes the design interesting and gives a sense of movement and energy to the whole thing, even though it's very solid.
And no, I definitely didn't think all this through as I was making the card. I was working with some very well-designed stamps from Clearly Besotted and playing with layout and color, not consciously thinking about the rest. I just fiddled until it looked right, laying un-inked stamps on the card, moving them around. Only when I finished it did I realize it was a pretty good card!
Design is a lot like grammar. There are lots of rules that all work together to create a clear message, a concise thesis or focal point, if you will. After lots of practice with the rules, you understand in your bones why each rule is a good rule, what it communicates, why it's important, and when you can break it for good effect.
It's how the little things relate to the whole message that makes all the difference. And if I can figure all this out, without formal training, you can, too.
All it takes is lots of practice, a little bit of obsession, and a willingness to make mistakes time and time again while experimenting to make it work. A simple, well-designed card like the one above doesn't just happen by accident, and it doesn't happen every time.
When I photographed my latest batch of creations, seven were photographed and two were not worthy. Of the seven, one ended up looking meh on the computer screen, so I won't post it either. The unworthy cards will have the fronts cut off and tossed, and the backs put in my scrap paper drawer.
And thus endeth the lesson.
stamps: Clearly Besotted You Are
ink: Memento tuxedo black, SU summer sun
paper: Papertrey Ink
accessories: yellow Stickles