There is a fine line between sterile and messy. Between cold and cluttered.
The correct balance is effortlessly stylish and often draws on the Rule of Three.
What is the Rule of Three?
This theory tells us that three is generally the perfect number stylistically.
Three is the Goldilocks of numbers. One of something is not enough, and is often a clumsy curiosity. Meanwhile five is too crowded. According to Feng Shui, odd numbers expand and create energy while even numbers contract and reduce. That leaves us with our good friend, the golden number of three.
Put simply, three is an engaging number for the human brain.
There are Rules of Three in computer programming, maths, chemistry, statistics, haematology, aviation, survival, Wicca and more.
I don’t inhabit the worlds of Wicca or medicine but what IS totally relatable for me is how the rule of three applies to writing and presentation. The brain recognises a pattern from three and up, so this literary device creates engagement without overwhelm.
It can refer to slogans, stories (the Three Little Pigs, Three Musketeers etc) and arguments when presenting a persuasive piece of writing. Two examples to support your intention are great, but the third one really brings it home and helps readers absorb your message.
Comedically, dad jokes of the ‘three men walk into a bar’ kind are a basic example, but even more elaborate comedic structures use the third element of the triple to deliver the punchline and an element of surprise. A quick and skilled delivery will mean you don’t even recognise the pattern emerging when you are hit with it.
Think also, of sayings like Blood, Sweat and Tears, Sex, Drugs and rock’n’roll, and Friends, Romans, Countrymen (Shakespeare). Advertising slogans including Slip, Slop, Slap and Stop, Drop and Roll would not have the same engagement if they were in a different set.
Decor and the Rule of Three
Have you ever noticed how some homes look effortlessly stylish and you can’t put your finger on why? The Latin saying “omne trium perfectum” means that everything in threes is ideal, or, every set of three is complete.
But what about symmetry? Our friends two and four need not be left out, but they should be tempered by some trios or else things tend to look a bit stuffy.
Three items are easy for your brain to register visually without counting or evaluating – at which point your interest may wane. It’s a satisfying number which strikes a nice balance between stark minimalism and clutter.
Colour – Interior design dictates that you should choose one main colour and then two other ways to refer to that colour with other items. Graphic design principles bear this in mind also.
Size – If three items are of similar texture and style, different sizes creates interest in the arrangement. Picture three vases that are quite similar but different sizes.
Shape – A room where everything is circular or square would be a bit freakish, but limiting shape to three options is a great idea.
Now you know about it, you will see application of the Rule of Three everywhere.
Start by decluttering and then you can have a lot of fun with this concept.
This blog was brought to you by the number three.