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White Space

Oct-09-2013

Consider for a moment the power of empty space. Empty space controlled with the correct technique, and used in counter balance to the space that is full – is powerful. Swiss typographic design of the 20th century stressed areas of emptiness or white space in their designs to emphasize the beauty of the letterform and add volume to the voice speaking through the text and graphics.

The great designers of the early to middle 20th century such as the Jan Tschichold (Swiss), El Lissitzky (Russian) and Paul Rand (American) all harnessed the power of white space in their design to create a beautiful tension serving to visually reinforce the message.

Tschichold, widely accepted as the father of modern graphic design, believed graphic design and in particular, typographic design, should be functional and bring the utmost clarity to the content. Around the same time on the other side of the world, a Japanese Jujitsu master was busy refining his martial-art based on the theory that all unnecessary movements, force and techniques should be stripped away. His art called Wado-Ryu was built around the simple idea that you cannot hit what is not there, and so when attacked the martial-artist simply moves out of the way using what is called Tai-Sabaki. This is the martial-arts equivalent of white space.

I like this quote from the Tao Te Ching (The Book of Changes) that speaks about the usefulness of what is not there:

Thirty spokes meet at a nave; Because of the hole we may use the wheel. Clay is molded into a vessel; Because of the hollow we may use the cup. Walls are built around a hearth; Because of the doors we may use the house. Thus tools come from what exists, but use from what does not.

White space can add value to everything: architecture, graphic design, Websites, maybe even your mind!