The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is an important term used by artists, that as retail designers, we have re-purposed for making the most of the design of your shopfront. Above is the recently opened Crema Espresso at Westfield Garden City, that has employed some of the elements that you will read in the article below.

The Rule of Thirds

The Rule of Thirds is a term used by artists to assist in the composing of an image.

Wikipedia describes it as such:

The rule of thirds is a “rule of thumb” or guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as designs, films, paintings, and photographs.[1] The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.[2] Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject would. 1

Retail designer top tips

Sight Lines

We have borrowed this term and utilised it for years in the design of our retail designs but in a very different way.  In a crowded shopping centre mall the visibility of the top third of a store becomes crucial for the commercial success of the store. Walking through a busy mall, often a customer’s visibility is hindered by other mall goers. They often can only see the top third of your store by looking above the top of people’s heads.

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High Spy

With this in mind, there are a number of elements that need to be carefully considered when designing your store front, these include signage, ceiling treatment, lighting and merchandising.

 Sign Up

The placement of your signage in this top third zone ensures that your business is visible even on the busiest days. The signage should be clearly visible and well lit to be able to be seen from many metres away. The colour, style and illumination of the sign help to activate your store by capturing a potential customer’s attention.

Ceiling Up

Ceiling treatments are an element that is greatly encouraged by shopping centres for good reason. Sculptural and interesting ceilings, whether it be through surface treatments, bulkheads or pendant lights not only grab attention but can visually lead a customer’s eye into the store.

Light Up

Humans are affected by the colour and levels of light, and this is just important in the design of your retail space. Lighting sets the ‘mood’ and well designed lighting can communicate clearly what your store is about without a word having been spoken. Low levels of light may be appropriate for a store selling candles, such as the Dusk stores, or a lingerie store wanting to create an air of mystery and seduction. In general, having a well lit shopfront is important as it captures the customer’s attention as their eyes constantly scan the mall. The colour of the light, whether it be warm or cool light will also have a dramatic affect on how people perceive your store.

Make Up Stories

The way that the shopfront elements are designed and put together are important. What is also important is the merchandising of  a shopfront. A constantly changing display creates interest. Remember to activate the top third in the design of your merchandising with for instance, tall banners that draw the eye down to the story you are creating in the window.

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Subliminal Selling

There are a number of things as humans we subliminally avoid and can be deal breakers stopping potential customers from even entering your store.

Dark Thoughts

For instance, dark and dingy spaces often aren’t places we enter without trepidation. Possibly it is a throw back from our cavemen days, where if you can’t see clearly into a dark cave you may well have become the next meal of a sabre-toothed tiger.


Another thing to be aware of is low bulkheads. In many shopping centres you may notice that they have raised the height of shop fronts and often limit the use of roller shutter bulkheads unless they can be recessed into the ceiling cavity. Crossing a thresh hold with a heavy element above one’s head can give us an uncomfortable feeling, maybe because we may feel that it may fall on top of us as we enter. Additionally, a small entrance isn’t saying ‘enter’. Certain high end jewellery stores use this to their advantage to create the perception of exclusivity, ensuring that they attract the clientele they are after. Going back to the rule of thirds, having the entrance to your store as open as possible and all the way to the ceiling is something to keep in mind.

Investing In Design

There are many elements that come together to create a space with great impact. An experienced designer can help you to make the most of your shop to attract new customers and ensure that existing customers keep coming back. We have been designing retail for over 15 years and with our expertise we are well positioned in helping you to create retail success. Smart business owners understand the importance that good design can bring to their bottom line and understand that engaging an experienced designer is an investment worth investing into.

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