Sunday, February 12, 2006

Elements of Graphic Design, Chapter 1

My library trip has been postponed due to the snow in our nation's capital. So I've got this book and am raring to go.

Chapter 1 is entitled "Space is emptiness."
Emptiness is an essential aspect of life. It is the unavoidable opposite of fullness, of busyness, of activity. It is the natural and universally present background to everything we see.
How can this principle (or element) apply to the nonprofit, or association environment? Or, to the business environment for that matter? Usually we don't think about our organizations in the context of absense, but rather, of presence.

But background is important, whether to design or to organizations. The book goes on to talk about how few people actually "see." We look at things, but we don't see them. I came across this link yesterday that talks about asking questions. I think they'd agree that asking these questions, eliciting unobvious answers, is all about "seeing" clearly.

RESOURCE: Introduction to Questionnaire Design. This might seem random to my readers, but I want to be able to refer to it later! Also, a usability study from the government provides a good model. These types of activities can help us see, I think.

So, let's look at the principle of white space. In graphic design, the white space is obviously the part of the page that is black or unused. But it's important. If I want to apply this principle to an organization, I'd say that the "white space" is the areas where the organization IS NOT. For example, staying within mission is an example of using white space and defining the message by what you're not doing. Any other ideas?

A couple of other interesting points from chapter 1. "Space is context." So the context in which an organization works is meaningful. I'm thinking an analog to my work would be audience, potential audience, profession or trade, generational differences, etc.

"Space adds quality." The book talks about retailers. If you think about a place like Banana Republic, Armani, or Zegna, there aren't racks upon racks upon racks of clothes to display. (Even Armani's website is amazingly sparse.) There is room to spread out and to think. I think lots of associations could use this model more. I haven't read the book, (I have put a hold on it so it'll be along soon) but The Paradox of Choice, Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz, seems like it must address this facet of organizational design.

By Alex White
ISBN# 1581152507