Three. The popular number has made its way into every aspect of the world’s creative cultures, from artists to photographers, playwrights to authors, inventors to designers; — all use the Rule of Three. When thinking of concepts for new bag styles, the solution can often lie in the simple adherence to this rule and shifting things around accordingly.

The basic idea of the rule is details and objects that appear in odd numbers are more appealing, memorable, and effective than even-numbered pairings. While it is easier to create symmetry by balancing elements in twos, this design trinity helps shape more interesting concepts, creates better visual appeal, enhances user-functionality and establishes a smarter balance. When we view our surroundings, we do so with two eyes. The brain automatically views things in pairs whenever symmetry is presented. By using an odd number, like three, it forces us to go back and have a longer, second look and as designers that is what we want to create — a memorable, effective, appealing fashion image.

Remember that accessory designers have elements of design like line, texture, colour, pattern, silhouette and space to aid them in creating new ideas. The design principles are the rules behind the way these elements are arranged in a given space. Call it spatial arrangement. In handbag design, placement and space management is the difference between the best and the rest.

Four cardinal areas of spatial arrangement implore the rule of three:

  • Silhouette – whole or paneled: For maximum impact, your vertical panels should not exceed three. The greater the number of panels, the more crowded, the less visual appeal and the greater the degree of achieving harmony within the style.
  • Colour – Do not use more than three hues in your bag design. Try groups of three in various colour schemes and palettes. Only very few fashion designers can handle high degrees of colour contrasts. Usually, you should maintain consistency with one dominant colour, with tones or varieties of that hue, and a splash of an accent colour. Use your colour wheel as a guide. This is where the knowledge of colour contrast and harmony comes in handy. You must know about complimentary and contiguous colour schemes. Colour principle is necessary if you do not want your design to look like child’s play (children’s coloring book) instead of a professional fashion idea.
  • Patterns – Here, you should not use more than three pattern styles or types on the same design. The designer-friendly combos are to use a print, with a stripe or checks, along with a solid.  Ideally, all the colours should be selected from those found in the print. Using multiple prints does not show consistency in design. Also do not use a variety of contrasting stitching on surfaces; keep it consistent throughout the design.
  • Space – Don’t confuse space with shapes. Some designers may call this negative shape. Here, there should be three spatial arrangements or less: The first area is called the foundation, the second area is the “carrying” mechanism, and the final area is the focal point (sometimes introduced into fashion design as emphasis).

In design, the rule serves as a tool for building drama and harmony in a style. The principle must remain at the back of your mind whenever you arrange shapes, colours, patterns, and space in your bag design project. These elements must work in synergy to create a stylish and professional look that portrays well. Your handbag design will always be above-average if you use the principle of “The Rule of Three” as a guide.



Filed under Design Insight

7 responses to “THE RULE OF THREE

  1. I very much appreciate the rule of three when designing. And I suppose you could apply this rule to almost everything. In my design classes the crazy creative flare was turned down only in the last stage of design when the rule was “less is more”.
    Thanks for your tips.

  2. R A Larkins

    Thanks so much for starting another blog. I really enjoyed Weekend Designer and really learned a lot. It should be fun reading this one too!

  3. Judith

    Hi Don, I only just now discovered your Weekend Designer and followed the directions to your new blog. The first thing I saw here was Bias Cutting. YAY! Someone who can explain “Rocket Science” to me. I know what I like….I just don’t necessarily know how to get there, but thanks to your generosity in sharing your knowledge, maybe I can give all this a try.

    Thanks again,
    A new friend,

  4. Cory S

    Hi Don taking your class on, amazing by the way, my creative juices are flowing. so glad it led my to your site/blog, just wanted to thank you for sharing such wonderful information. you have crushed my fears of leather forever take credit you have created a monster!!! thank you

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