Adobe Education
Educators and Professional Development Specialists

Do the rules of composition still apply?

Most design students learn the basic rules of composition early on in their education. But do the rules still apply today? If so, which are most important to follow, and which might be bent or broken in the name of creativity? Is it worth even teaching the rules anymore?

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James Rafferty

Posted on 11/2/17 2:51:29 AM Permalink

This is the essential ​building block of all design, whether you do it consciously or not they are present in all design (even if you chose to break some).

Tammie Clark

Posted on 7/21/17 5:06:40 AM Permalink

​Rules should always apply when teaching the basics. The student can later decide if the should break or bend the rules. They at least have the fundamentals in the beginning of their learning.

Shadara Peters

Posted on 7/11/17 9:04:48 PM Permalink


Yes, I believe that rules still apply. To me when I was in school the rule of thirds stuck with me and I am in the workforce now. I use it most of the time when I create posters, presentations, desktop publishing, etc. I think sometimes sticking to the rules helps to organize and create visuals that are needed for the appropriate task. I do also believe that rules can be broken also. Sometime rules can sort of limit creativity in way. If I create a poster and I want the title to run off the page to give the user some type of visual element then that would probably be breaking a rule, but sometimes your creative side doesn't want certain element to line up or be in line with the rules. I do feel that rules are worth being taught because you get to learn the concepts and do's and don't of effective designs. A lot of artist sometimes get an audience's attention because they step out the box and break those rules and cause a dialog amongst our community.


Cassandra Lee

Posted on 7/5/17 12:41:59 PM Permalink

The rules are there not because they're rigid things to follow, but rather guidelines for creating aesthetically appealing designs. That's whyit's important to know the rules, as well as for students to derive the rules from seeing a wide array of good designs.

Shadara Peters

Posted on 7/11/17 9:06:03 PM Permalink


I agree that it is important to know the rules to help creates designs as a designer but designs that an audience can follow or appreciate.

dorothy lynch

Posted on 7/3/17 3:25:01 PM Permalink

I am not a design student or teacher but the same rules apply when creating text, posters or even a powerpoint. You must prepare your work to catch the attention of the audience.

Shadara Peters

Posted on 7/11/17 9:07:43 PM Permalink

I agree you must prepare your work and decide as a designer what will attract an audience.

Holley Jacobs

Posted on 6/29/17 1:51:21 AM Permalink

I think that teaching the basic rules of composition are very important. Recently I redesigned a website that I had designed early in my years of learning web design. The difference by utilizing the rules of composition made all the difference in the world. It amazed me how just gaining that knowledge made my current website look much better and one that my audience will want to read.

That being said, the main thing I did was to use white space and not write for the web as if I was writing a college paper. When I originally designed the website, I was still in my Master's program and had been conditioned for 5 years how to write academics papers. So, that is how I wrote the website the first time. Now, I didn't change the information in my new design. I just utilized white space and other elements of composition that sets it apart from the first website design.

My tests in Google Analytics has already shown a drastic change in the amount of time users stay on web pages.

Check it out at and let me know what you think. I would love feedback on the composition on this website.


~ Holley Jacobs

Rick Henderson

Posted on 6/28/17 2:31:54 AM Permalink

​Oh these rules are definitely still important. Especially in a world where teachers are still using Word to make posters. Everyone should learn basic composition.

It's like when you learn kerning and then your life is changed forever when you see something badly kerned. :)

Tony Fling

Posted on 6/27/17 12:31:13 AM Permalink

​You can still be creative and have the rules to guide you. Just because a design might be newer doesn't mean it is better.

Kathy Herold

Posted on 6/26/17 7:05:57 PM Permalink

I think the rules still apply. There are many more options to be creative,​ which can be liberating, but which also requires restraint...the multitude of fonts, for example, invites creativity, but the rule that more is not better still applies.

Lauren Petiti

Posted on 12/15/16 7:55:18 PM Permalink

​I think that unless an artist has been studying long enough to really understand the rules of composition and design, there shouldn't be any reason to ignore them. I think it is absolutely worth it to teach the rules nowadays, especially to beginning students, regardless of age. Advanced students and professionals still need to be aware of the rules, but they may have a little more leiway.

I always tell my students "learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist"

Shadara Peters

Posted on 7/11/17 9:14:05 PM Permalink

I agree, this is how I learned about rule of thirds, balance, the use of white space, etc. Learning the rules helped me to become a better designer and allows me to make certain decisions. I can say I have broken some rules when design is concerned, but I also was taught the rules in order to create effective designs.