Magic Formulas - Rule Of Threes

By Katharyne Shelton

I just saw this bumper sticker on a car in front of me - Eat, Sleep, Honda

What's great is once you create a design like this, you can replace the third square with anything - doughnuts, unicorns, video games, roller skates, coffee, bacon, knitting needles...

Speechwriters, authors and comedians love the rule of threes. "Blood, sweat and tears", "Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'roll", "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" are some pretty strong examples.

What's great is once you create a design like this, you can replace the third square with anything Groups of threes sound powerful, catchy and completed in speech. They are perfect for jokes too because you can set a tone with the first two elements and break it with the third for a shock/humor result. e.g. "I can't think of anything worse after a night of drinking than waking up next to someone and not being able to remember their name, or how you met, or why they're dead." (Laura Kightlinger) or Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman jokes. Or "Can I get you anything? Cup of coffee? Doughnut? Toupee?" (Dick Van Dyke)

You can use the rule of threes to come up with both serious and funny t-shirts, bumper stickers, mugs, planners...

Here are some methods:

  • Think of already popular triplets and change the third element to fit your joke or niche. A couple of well known examples are... Veni, Vidi, Visa (I came, I saw, I shopped!) or Life, Liberty and Fruit of the Loom or.. Egalite, Liberte, Beyonce.
  • Come up with a title like, "Three Rules for Life" (Love, laugh, eat cookies) or "My Three Favorite People" (My Mom, My Boyfriend, Colonel Sanders) or "Three Places to Go Before I Die" (Disneyland, Las Vegas, A Quiet Room With No Dogs or Kids)
  • Pick icons that tell a story. Eat, Sleep are great. But maybe you could do pictures like a dog, cat and then a Cthulhu monster. Or a wine glass, whisky glass and an icon of someone lying on the floor.
  • Set up two opposing things and then make the third inclusive. So maybe do three checkboxes, "Republican, Democrat, American" and tick the third.
  • Find ways to merge the first two elements into the third. Maybe a UK flag, US flag and heartshaped mix of the two.
  • Use rhymes or alliteration. Sea, Swim, Sunbathe. Wake, Bake, Cake.

I'm sure there's a million more ways to use the rule of threes :)

p.s. The Honda logo is a trademark, expect lawyers if you use it on a major platform.

Rule of threes