Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Kind of blank

It's foggy here today.  Normally I look out of my window and I can see the sea and the downs. Today it is blank, grey flat space.
It has got me thinking (oh dear!). I really like flat space. The tendency with creating pattern is to fill up the repeat tile with motifs, pack it in so it becomes a seamless, flowing image. When you like empty space does this become a problem? How do you create a successful pattern that invites space? Where the negative spaces around the motifs are as important as the images themselves?

One of the things I really liked about doing graphic design was this consideration for the negative space. This poster by Josef Muller Brockmann demonstrates what I mean. It has a feeling of repetition (of pattern) but look at the space! The black shapes are so finely balanced within the white space. It is a superb composition where the rectangle at the base draws your eye down to the type and weights the whole poster.

This painting from 1979 by William Scott again has repetitive imagery. The colours and imagery are subtle and delicate, but I love the overall bold, graphic quality of it. The pears themselves become a negative space.

This delicate etching by Richard Hamilton is successful because of the simple horizontal line that divides the space- securing the botanical forms in the earth, providing a horizon and completely altering the blank white space. All in one simple line. This is exactly the sort of quality I want to get into a pattern. So is it possible?

This 1960s fabric by Shirley Craven has the bold graphic quality I like and utilises the white space to highlight the torn paper shapes of this abstract print.

Magnetic by Lucienne Day is clearly a repeat, but the allowance of space in between the motifs feels similar to the Brockmann poster. The gaps are as important as the shapes themselves. There is a tension in the spaces and uneven lines which prevents this from being just another spotty repeat.

Maija louekari is one of my favourite designers, and I think it is because she plays so well with the contrast between line, colour and the negative space. I think this is the kind of blank I need to remember when designing; that what isn't there is just as important as what is. The space in a pattern can help it balance or create tension and interest in a repeat.


  1. I agree, I always seem to need to fill the spaces with more pattern but these images go to show that it doesn't always need to be that way. x

  2. I agree too... some days I have to fill up every bit of space with a patterns and other days I love simple white space. The space is what creates tension or lets a design breathe... and more importantly I must remember this a lot more! Thanks for reminding me!

  3. I'm so with you on this one. I love the shapes that are created by negative space in between marks. I find it scary to work this way but I'm trying it!