Interdigital electrodes are implemented in many commercial and novel liquid crystal devices to align molecules. Although many empirical principles and patents apply to electrode design, only a few numerical simulations of alignment have been conducted. Why and how the molecules align in an ordered manner has never been adequately explained. Hence, this investigation addresses the Fréedericksz transition of vertically aligned liquid crystal that is driven by fishbone electrodes, and thereafter identifies the mechanism of liquid crystal alignment. Theoretical calculations suggest that the periodic deformation that is caused by the fan-shaped fringe field minimizes the free energy in the liquid crystal cell, and the optimal alignment can be obtained when the cell parameters satisfy the relation p/2d=k11/k33, where p is the spatial period of the strips of the electrode; d denotes the cell gap; and k11 and k33 are the splay and bend elastic constants of the liquid crystal, respectively. Polymer-stabilized vertical alignment test cells with various p values and spacings between the electrodes were fabricated, and the process of liquid crystal alignment was observed under an optical microscope. The degree of alignment was evaluated by measuring the transmittance of the test cell. The experimental results were consistent with the theoretical predictions. The principle of design, p/2d=k11/k33, greatly improves the uniformity and stability of the aligned liquid crystal. The methods that are presented here can be further applied to cholesteric liquid crystal and other self-assembled soft materials.