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How Geometry Inspires Design

Geometry is an integral part of design from start to finish.

Architects use geometry to divide space when generating schematic designs. Artists use repetitive sequences like fractals or cubes to create rich patterns or abstract images. And design professionals use shapes, symbols, and symmetrical layouts to create pages that are balanced and visually stimulating.

As humans, we’re wired with a positive intuitive response to images that are proportional. By regulating lines and symmetry in your designs, you can create a stronger sense of relationship between elements in your design or the visual cues you’re sending. Want to make your image more engaging? Geometry can be used to position your artwork by locating the diagonals and by using the rule of thirds.

Locating the Diagonals

One of the simplest geometric design tools is to locate the diagonals in a composition.

The diagonals, from corner to corner of any square or rectangle, cross at the center of an image and naturally draw the eye to this intersection. Diagonal divides create an organizational reference point for you to use when generating layouts. Positioning key elements of your design near the cross point will naturally draw the eye, and objects should naturally balance around this optical center.


Elements along the diagonal axes will appear more visually steady and purposeful, implying direction or movement as they pull the viewer’s eye along that line. Key elements placed outside these axis lines will create a small pause for the viewer or create a sense of tension or imbalance.

Use the Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds suggests that when a rectangle or square is divided into thirds vertically and horizontally, the four intersecting points within the composition are the optimal focus points.

Use intersecting points to draw attention to the most critical elements of your design.


For example, viewers are more naturally drawn to people’s eyes. When you place a face within your grid, try placing your subject’s eyes near the intersection point to give the image a clear focal draw. And remember that off-center compositions are more pleasing to the eye: for maximum impact, position key elements in the outside thirds of your layout rather than directly in the center.

Thought geometry was just for math class? Think again. The principles of proportion and symmetry can help you craft designs that are balanced, seamless, and striking.

Geometry of Design
by Kimberly Elam


At last, a mathematical explanation of how art works presented in a manner we can all understand. Kimberly Elam takes the reader on a geometrical journey, lending insight and coherence to the design process by exploring the visual relationships that have foundations in mathematics as well as the essential qualities of life. Geometry of Design takes a close look at a broad range of twentieth-century examples of design, architecture, and illustration (from the Barcelona chair to the paintings of Georges Seurat, from the Braun hand blender to the Conico kettle), revealing underlying geometric structures in their compositions. Explanations and techniques of visual analysis make the inherent mathematical relationships evident and a must-have for anyone involved in art, design, or architecture graphic arts. The book focuses not only on the classic systems of proportioning, such as the golden section and root rectangles, but also on less well known proportioning systems such as the Fibonacci Series. Through detailed diagrams these geometric systems are brought to life giving an effective insight into the design process.

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