As human beings, we love balance. It looks “right,” it feels harmonious, and it makes us comfortable.
Too often in design, however, we confuse balance with symmetry. Unfortunately strict symmetry — usually in the form of centering and mirroring everything — can quickly become, well, boring.
Luckily, you can still have balance with well-crafted asymmetry. In fact, it’s one of the rare examples in life where you can essentially have your cake and eat it too.
And if you can push your comfort zone beyond balance, asymmetry can really shake things up.
Why is asymmetry good?
- It suggests movement.
- It creates tension.
- And it’s just more interesting.
Consider an empty pool table. Perfectly symmetrical. (Yawn.)
Let’s rack up a set of balls. Hmmm. Unbalanced, but intriguing. A big, open, green field of potential.
You want balance? We could add a set of balls on the other side. But that would just be silly. (And boring.)
Add a player about to break. Balanced? Pretty close, but not identical — and that’s what makes it interesting. Your eye is directed from the pool cue to the racked balls, giving you… wait for it… antici…pation!
Now think about the Tree Pose in yoga.
It doesn’t look balanced, yet somehow the model doesn’t fall over. Just a little flex of the hip to the side is enough to balance that knee sticking out on the other.
Why is Doug rambling on about this?
The same elements that make these images more intriguing can be applied to the composition of any photo, or the layout of a page.
Consider how you want to direct your reader across the page. “Heavier” items — those that are larger, darker, or more vibrantly colored — will attract attention first. So will elements that suggest motion (or motion about to happen), like the player setting up for a break in our pool table example.
There are times and places for a simple, centered layout, but look for opportunities to shake things up with asymmetry. It’s a great way to engage your audience, direct their attention, or even [gasp!] make them feel a little uncomfortable.