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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/47244
- On white space: when less is more
- Robertson, Keith
- White space is nothing. White space is the absence of content. Yet white space is the ultimate value in graphic design. How could something so minimal be ascribed so much value? If we were to draw a continuum of taste from trashy to quality there is one graphic design variable that would constantly grow with the increase in quality---white space. Quality design has developed an association (a code) with white space as its principle variable (or sign). The presence of white space is a symbol of smart, of class, of simplicity, of the essence of refinement. The absence of white space is a symbol of vulgarity, of crassness, of schlock, of bad taste. These values are something we all take years to learn at design schools and for most of us practising designers, it is an opinion which rules the rest of our working lives. Because white space is the supreme symbol of class, it is difficult to disentangle it from our other art values, because to do so, makes you question where images and styles come from in the first place and why we are reproducing them. Maybe it is only in these Post-modern times that we can start to be objective about Modernity. In fine art, Modernity was not necessarily about white space. Painting, for instance, was most often about new subjects and ways of image making. On rare occasions, such as in the work of Malevich or Mondrian, simplicity of spatial arrangement was the major theme of their Modernist project; but mostly the technical and expressive qualities of line and colour were at the centre of Modern creation. But this was not the case in any of the design related fields of expression. In graphic design, as in architecture, simplicity and less is more, governs the taste of the new age and you can only assume that this stylistic dictum derives from similar origins as, say, the Cubists with their drive to uncover the visual essence of structure and form. So I return to starting from zero which lies at the base of Modern expression.
- Publication type
- Book chapter
- Look closer: critical writings on graphic design / Michael Bierut, William Drenttel, Steven Heller and D. K. Holland (eds.), pp. 61-65
- Publication year
- Aesthetic; Critical theory; Graphic design; Minimalism; Modernism; Postmodernism; White space
- Allworth Press
- 9781880559154, 1880559153
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 1994 Michael Bierut, William Drenttel, Steven Heller, D. K. Holland. All rights reserved.
- Peer reviewed