Artistic SPACE

The Chinese say that the most beautiful thing in existence is a blank space, a clean untouched piece of paper, an empty white room, an uninterrupted area of nothing……simply pure space.

But Why? Because to the Chinese a blank piece of paper represents endless possibility, beauty and vision only bound by the limits of one’s imagination.

 “On a blank sheet of paper free from any mark, the freshest and most beautiful characters can be written; the freshest and most beautiful pictures can be painted.”

Mao Tse Tung – founding father of the People’s Republic of China

When nothing interrupts and nothing shouts…when nothing stops the flow or creates a barrier, the mind can be open with no bounds, no preconceptions, no limits…and that is when ‘amazing things’ happen.

Try it! Right now. Switch off your phone, switch off the music, sit with a clean sheet of paper, on a clear desk in front of you and stare at it. Close off your mind to what is around you. What happens?

After, in your minds eye, you have cleaned your house, thought about what you are having for tea, done your shopping list for the week and thought about how stupid you feel staring at a piece of paper… your mind starts dreaming. It starts visualising ideas and thoughts, it starts showing you all the hidden gems that it keeps locked away, blocked by the barrage of interruptions around us constantly. Look for long enough and your mind finally opens up …uninterrupted by SPACE.

So how does SPACE relate to design?

SPACE is a very powerful thing, and something that, in design, should be understood and respected, and in turn if its principles are embraced it becomes a dramatic creative tool …..Artistic SPACE.

Artistic SPACE is the aesthetic clear zone in design that makes a creation beautiful to the eye and to the mind. Get it wrong and it’s the difference between a piece that is beautiful or ugly – a vision that engages or annoys – a viewer that embraces or turns away.

Artistic SPACE dictates everything, and is one of the most important ingredients to any creative layout, but sadly it is also one of the most common downfalls of design.

It’s understandable to assume that nothing is more important than the images we see, the words we read, the messages that are put to us, the call to actions, the quotes, the user experience, the narrative, the typography, the colour …..yes, all of these elements and more, are essential ingredients to a successful design, but having all of these does not automatically carve out a beautiful design.


None of this matters if it is not held together perfectly with Artistic SPACE.

Artistic SPACE dictates EVERYTHING. It controls how we interact with a design, how we emotionally feel when we look at it, how we engage with the elements in front of us, how we progress mentally through the creative journey and how we are left feeling once we are done. It can make us believe or feel let down, it can make or break a piece of design.

Nonsense I hear you all say.

Maybe, but as airy fairy as it may sound, we as humans are driven by our emotive desires, beliefs and needs. And to create a vision of uninterrupted emotional aesthetics that speaks out to a person’s emotive subconscious, you have to learn to effectively design with Artistic SPACE. This by far is one of the most difficult skills to master in design, and to do that you first need to understand it, so that you may then respect and embrace it.


So how do we learn to understand, and design with Artistic SPACE?

Do we just make sure we have enough border? Do we just check we aren’t too close to the edge of the page? Do we make sure all our margins are the same, or we have equal space between the paragraphs and the pictures. Do we have a nice big blank page with a big single word in the middle? ‘Cus that is cool…right?


Artistic SPACE isn’t a defined science. It isn’t a mathematical calculation based on the point size of type or the amount of images you have. It doesn’t have a rule book that every designer should learn to an inch of their lives.  It isn’t a percentage of page size, or a table of principles that apply to all. Sure, there are rules of layout, that we all learn as a student, yes there are commandments of design that should be followed at all cost or be struck down by the graphic design gods, but these are not Artistic SPACE. This is why it is so hard to master.

Artistic SPACE, is a feeling. It is an emotion. It comes from deep inside your being that makes you feel that a creation is harmonious or unbalanced. Artistic SPACE is a voice inside, that tells you how to feel and tells you how to react.

Tuning in on this inner voice, can be a turning point for a designer. Open up your mind, let your eyes be uninterrupted, and your mind be open to see what is in front of you, and LISTEN to how it makes you feel.

Look past the words and the pictures, don’t read the text, don’t analysis the graphics, …just train your eye to stand back and take it all in. Look at the design….really look at it….even sit back from the screen so that you may take the whole visual of it in. Is it harmonious? Is it balanced? Does anything jump out at you, that shouldn’t? Is there anything that feels out of place or out of context? When you tune in to this inner voice, even the most minute element of wrong spacing will stand out to you like pins in your eyes!

Remember, it’s not words or pictures, it’s not right or wrong, it’s not black nor white, nor logical or illogical, it’s an inner instinct that designers just have to learn to trust.

And whilst others around you will simply not see what you see, and look at you like you really need to go and lay down in a darkened room, when you get to this point be proud, because you have mastered the art of evoking feeling with Artistic SPACE.

Maya Angelou, an American Poet and Author, once said:

“People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you made them feel.”


Jo Derviller
Creative Director, Imaginate


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