White Space

(aka, “How everything in my life is interconnected”)

In page layout, illustration and sculpture, white space is often referred to as negative space. It is that portion of a page left unmarked: the space between graphics, margins, gutters, space between columns, space between lines of type or figures and objects drawn or depicted.

I am a huge believer in white space. I incorporate it in every one of my graphic designs and in every website. I also strive for white space in my house: a lack of clutter, a visual cleanliness, breathing room. White space doesn’t just create a sense of openness, it draws the eye to what’s truly important. It is the silence before thunder.

I missed almost every Tai Chi class last year. Classes were early on Friday nights, and I was always working well past the time I’d need to leave the office. I love Tai Chi, had taken it for two years already, and deeply missed those classes. The form we learn is very complicated, and I was certain that I’d forgotten all of it.

White space should not be considered merely ‘blank’ space – it is an important element of design which enables the objects in it to exist at all, the balance between positive (or none-white) and the use of negative spaces is key to aesthetic composition. [~Wikipedia]

A funny thing happened, though. I not only remembered more moves than I thought I would, but I had a more profound understanding of the principles of Tai Chi. I found myself moving and forming circles more naturally. I found myself moving my waist, and letting it move the rest of my body. I found my stance more grounded and balanced. I found myself moving left to move right, and moving right to move left.

The time away helped me achieve a new level of understanding. It brought clarity where before there was just a clutter of movement and concepts and breathing and shifting weight. I needed that white space in order to see what was important.

When space is at a premium, such as some types of magazine, newspaper, and yellow pages advertising, white space is limited in order to get as much vital information on to the page as possible. A page crammed full of text or graphics with very little white space runs the risk of appearing busy, cluttered, and is typically difficult to read.

And as I was thinking about this on the way home, it occurred to me that my life last year was like a page out of a newspaper: filled to the brim with work, and other activities crammed in along the edges, wherever I could find room. No white space at all.

Over the holiday break, I found some time to reflect. I looked back at the year and came to a new level of understanding about where my life is and what I want it to be. I saw what was important to me. It’s all connected, you see? Life and art and philosophy and introspection and kung fu. The same principles are everywhere, just in different guises. From now on, I will make white space in my life, not just on the page. I will remember to breathe.