One of the simplest guidelines for visually powerful PowerPoints is the Rule of Thirds.
The Rule of Thirds appears as early as 1797 (in a book by JT Smith) as a rule for good nature paintings. It is a guideline for composition that suggests placing key graphic elements along lines that divide your image into thirds, or at the intersections of those lines.
Imagine two vertical and horizontal lines running through your PowerPoint slide, dividing your slide into 9 areas of equal size. These lines intersect at four points - Sweet Spots. Using these lines and Sweet Spots can visually enhance and energise your slides.
People who believe in the Rule of Thirds claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition, as compared to placing the subject in the centre. Use the following 6 guidelines when you develop your next presentation.
Guideline #1 – Position the picture or text at a Sweet Spot
Guideline #2 – Place key text along horizontal lines
Guideline #3 – Place key illustrations along vertical lines
Composing your pictures based on a simple grid of thirds is a technique that movie producers, graphic designers and professional photographers use. Using the Rule of Thirds leads to pleasing and professional-looking imagery. When using upright pictures – align them to one of the vertical lines.
When doing close-ups of people, it is common to line up the body with a vertical line, and having the person's eyes in line with a horizontal one.
Rule #4 – Use both the Sweet Spots and the horizontal lines
Rule #5 – Let the picture bleed to the edge of the slide
Rule #6 – Put the main area of interest on a Sweet Spot
One tip is to use a much larger photograph that can be cropped to the Rule of Thirds. Or scale, crop, or position photographs to follow the rule.
When looking at pictures, use your mental viewfinder to find a small area within a larger photograph that you can use. By cropping asymmetrically, you can often create a more pleasing effect.
Also look for pictures with large areas of uniform colour on which you can place text or a solid one-colour background.
Maybe you want to create some sort of grid on which to build your slides. In the beginning, grids can save you time and ensure that your design elements fit more pleasantly on the display.
Studies have shown that, when viewing images, people’s eyes usually go to one of the Sweet Spots rather than the centre of the image. Using the Rule of Thirds works with this natural way of viewing an image, rather than against it.