Negative Space is Positive


I played a small decoration experiment last week.

I removed the decorations from our bookshelf except for a vase full of rocks from favorite vacations to see what my reactions about the space were. I fully expected it to look empty and dull.

Surprisingly, the emptiness or negative space wasn’t ugly. In fact, it gave my mind freedom to focus on the vase of rocks and I spent the week remembering our fun vacations instead of staring at decorative clutter.

Negative space refers to the area around a subject (the “positive space”). Specifically in graphic design, negative space helps determine the effectiveness of a piece of artwork; the more negative space around a subject the easier it is to understand. Nothingness is the “thing” that supports and highlights the main subject. It’s the unseen hero in simple, effective design.


Creating negative space in my home made me wonder if the concept could be taken a bit further. What would it would look like to have more negative space in my daily life? If effective design is aided by negative space, do I need it to be effective and focused as well? In what ways could I continue to declutter my life to create more focus?

I expected to scramble stuff back onto the shelf as soon as my experiment ended but I decided to keep it simple. The empty shelf is reminding me to value negative space in my life and in the lives of those around me.


5 thoughts on “Negative Space is Positive

  1. I love this! It makes so much sense when you put it this way. I have been writing about something similar (haven’t published the post yet), white space in our minds. It’s so important, and so fruitful, yet we often don’t do it.


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