“I’ll try anything once, twice if I like it, three times to make sure.” Mae West (from Brainyquote)
Is there power in numbers? Or more specifically, is there power in the number three? If so what does that have to do with art? It just might possibly be the number of success. “Myth,” “innuendo,” “hocus pocus,” some will say but they may be dismissing a powerful ingredient for success in art. New research is proving the number three to be a very effective marketing tool. The number three appears to hold fascination for people, consciously or unconsciously.
The New York Times recently featured an article that highlighted the research (here) of Kurt A. Carlson of Georgetown University and Suzanne B. Shu of the University of California, Los Angeles. The Times sums up this research as, “A new study finds that in ads, stump speeches and other messages understood to have manipulative intent, three claims will persuade, but four, (or more) will trigger skepticism, and reverse an initially positive impression.” The study appears to prove if you want to make a positive impact do things in threes. No hocus pocus here.
If three is a powerfully persuasive number in marketing, what can it do for art? Joshua Johnson of Design Shack, says, “as a designer any time you’re faced with figuring out how to logically group items in a visual arrangement, the number three is there to help you out.” The website features a number of examples of art, design and nature where the three comes into play. In art, three can be a powerful arrangement on the picture plane. A triangular formation or groups of three items will guide the eye and draw the viewer in. Create drama and interest by the use of threes.
Hocus pocus, myth, whatever, there seems to be truth in the benefits of the number three. Threes stick in the minds of the audience. It’s definitely worth a try, after all Mae West followed this principle and everyone knows what a towering intellect she was. But whatever you do, don’t go on to the fours. Fours are a whole different story altogether. Stay with the threes. The threes have it.
Here’s more Mae West: