Back to Basics: 3 Rules of Composition to Create an Awesome Backyard

The rules of composition are the basics when it comes to anything related to aesthetics. You may have heard it frequently in photography, art, or graphics, but it also well applies to the design of spaces — like your outdoor areas. If you want to achieve a nice backyard that’s not just Instagram-worthy, but breathtaking in real life altogether, you should be able to master these rules of composition:

Figure and Ground

In the simplest terms, figure and ground pertains to the positive and negative space in design. Figure is the element that you see outlined by lines and shapes. Ground, on the other hand, is the space free of anything. When designing your backyard, your goal is to have a balance between these two features. Figure only becomes emphasized with a good ground and at the same time, ground offers visual rest from a striking figure. 

The classic example of ground in the context of outdoor design is the lawn. It’s a chunk of empty green space. Given that this is what often exists in an area, it’s just a matter of adding lines and shapes in the form of flower beds, hedges, and hardscaping materials to create the figure. Now, of course, that’s difficult to make out of if your positive and negative spaces are balanced accurately, but as long as you have enough resting area for the eyes and points of visual interest, you have already done good in terms of figure and ground.

Leading Lines

In photography, leading lines are critical because it draws attention to the subject of the image. In garden design, it’s no different. The use of leading lines highlights the focal point in the outdoor space — a tall tree or a water fountain. There are many forms of leading lines and they individually create different kinds of feel to the space. 

The most common is the straight, vertical lines. These are usually what you see in formal, English gardens. Experts in custom landscape design and Salt Lake City-based professionals say that if you want your outdoor space to have a sense of stability and rigidness, these are what you should introduce when leading people to your focal point. 

Another kind is the curved lines. These very well complement the irregular shapes and patterns created by plant species grouped together. Like in figure and ground, you want to have a good balance between different kinds of leading lines.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds is simple. Imagine dividing your view of the garden into nine equal parts using two equally spaced vertical and horizontal lines. Where the intersections of the lines meet is where you should place visually important elements in your garden, like patios, al fresco area, or statues and sculptures. This is a deviation from the common approach of putting things at the dead center. When you follow the rule of thirds and place things a little off-center, the whole thing looks more natural, not forced. It then becomes more aesthetically pleasing.

The rules of composition are a must-have in designing backyard spaces. Don’t leave the creative process to gut feel. Follow the science behind the aesthetics.

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