The rule of thirds is a technique used by photographers to increase the aesthetic quality of a photo—to make a photo more interesting, balanced and harmonious.
Here’s how it works: divide an image into three parts—both vertically and horizontally—so as to obtain four points of intersection. These four points are called power points (or focal points).
According to the rule of thirds it’s recommended to place the elements of interest of a photo along one of the lines that divide the image into thirds or on the focal points. Research shows that the human eye—albeit unconsciously—is naturally drawn to these points. That's why photos that follow the rule of thirds appear more natural. Here are a few examples.
The rule of thirds is a simple yet powerful principle. And since a presentation has a lot in common with photography—being a visual representation of a story—why not use the rule of thirds to create better slides? When it comes to slide design, most people tend to place the elements of interest in the centre, but in photography the centre is called dead centre. The elements of interest of a slide should be placed on the focal points or along the dividing lines. The result will be an asymmetrical design which tends to appear more dynamic.
What’s the simplest way to apply the rule of thirds to presentation design? Combining images and text. For example, quotations are particularly suitable for the rule of thirds because you can place the person you’re quoting along one of the two vertical lines and the quotation itself on one of the two opposite focal points.
This is the basic technique—however, rules are meant to be broken. But it’s always advisable to know the rules first and then decide if and when to break them. You don't have to apply the rule of thirds to every slide, like photographers don't apply it to every photo. Sometimes you can choose to intentionally place an element of interest in the centre. The important thing is to be aware of certain principles which can help to create better presentations and then chose if and when to use them.
If you want to learn more about how to make better presentations, download my report Top 7 Mistakes People Make When Creating Business Presentations.