It’s not easy being beautiful.
With all the clutter, the noise, and the chaos it’s difficult to find beauty or to truly ingest it. And yet, when we do, when we really find ourselves appreciating something artful, it’s usually in moments of peace and mental solitude.
Paintings in an art gallery are hung separate from each other, often isolated on their own wall, with nothing but white behind them. White space allows us that freedom and clarity… it gives us a visual break from an oversaturated muddle of data.
When preparing for a presentation, whether you’re designing slides or writing speaking notes, this is a good principle to keep in mind. Think of how many presentations you’ve sat through, staring blankly at a screen crammed with information — as if jamming it all onto one slide will make it easier for you to understand. The truth is, you’ll likely consume none of it, and leave the room wanting to vomit.
NOTE: I’m not suggesting you do this, but… when necessary… vomiting in the room at least, if nothing else, sends a strong signal to the presenter.
Nancy Duarte, in her book Slideology, suggests that whitespace gives us “visual breathing room”, that it is as much an element of a slide as titles, bullets and diagrams. “In large part, the use or misuse of whitespace determines a slide’s effectiveness… it’s okay to have clear space — clutter is a failure of design.”
I also like Garr Reynolds‘ comparison to a Zen Garden – a space designed to clear your mind and give you focus and clarity. If you have a striking image that conveys a message, having it surrounded by empty space will give it prominence and lead the eye.
My advice is to pay attention to the things that strike you, that you find beautiful, that elicit an emotional response and bring you pleasure. Think about why you love them, how you see them, and what made you notice them in the first place.
If you visually ingest beautiful design, you will be able to output beauty. But it takes study and contemplation of what makes those things beautiful.
I want to avoid saying that I’m beautiful because I’m simple… because… I’m very, very complex…
But, I will say this…
Simply beautiful is beautifully simple.