White space and MA

In page layout, illustration and sculpture, white space is often referred to as negative space. It is the portion of a page left unmarked: margins, gutters, and space between columns, lines of type, graphics, figures, or objects drawn or depicted. The term arises from graphic design practice, where printing processes generally use white paper. White space should not be considered merely "blank" space — it is an important element of design which enables the objects in it to exist at all; the balance between positive (or non-white) and the use of negative spaces is key to aesthetic composition. Inexpert use of white space, however, can make a page appear incomplete.

When space is at a premium, such as in some types of magazine, newspaper, and yellow pages advertising, white space is limited in order to get as much vital information on to the page as possible. A page crammed full of text or graphics with very little white space runs the risk of appearing busy or cluttered, and is typically difficult to read. Some designs compensate for this problem through the careful use of leading and typeface. Conversely, judicious use of white space can give a page a classic, elegant, or rich appearance. For example, upscale brands often use ad layouts with little text and a lot of white space. For publication designers, white space is very important. Publications can be printed on a variety of different papers, which can have different colours, textures, etc. In these cases, white space is used for good presentation and for showcasing the different stocks.

Negative space
Negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the "real" subject of an image.

The use of negative space is a key element of artistic composition. The Japanese word "ma" is sometimes used for this concept, for example in garden design.

In a two-tone, black-and-white image, a subject is normally depicted in black and the space around it is left blank (white), thereby forming a silhouette of the subject. Reversing the tones so that the space around the subject is printed black and the subject itself is left blank, however, causes the negative space to be apparent as it forms shapes around the subject. This is called figure-ground reversal.

In graphic design of printed or displayed materials, where effective communication is the objective, the use of negative space may be crucial. Not only within the typography, but in its placement in relation to the whole. It is the basis of why upper and lower case typography always is more legible than the use of all capital letters. Negative space varies around lower case letters, allowing the human eye to distinguish each word rapidly as one distinctive item, rather than having to parse out what the words are in a string of letters that all present the same overall profile as in all caps. The same judicious use of negative space drives the effectiveness of the entire design. Because of the long history of the use of black ink on white paper, "white space" is the term often used in graphics to identify the same separation.

Elements of an image that distract from the intended subject, or in the case of photography, objects in the same focal plane, are not considered negative space. Negative space may be used to depict a subject in a chosen medium by showing everything around the subject, but not the subject itself. Use of negative space will produce a silhouette of the subject. Most often, negative space is used as a neutral or contrasting background to draw attention to the main subject, which then is referred to as the positive space.
The use of equal negative space, as a balance to positive space, in a composition is considered by many as good design. This basic, but often overlooked principle of design, gives the eye a "place to rest," increasing the appeal of a composition through subtle means.

The term also is used in other arts. Musicians will describe periods of silence within a musical piece as negative space.

Ma (間) is a Japanese word which can be roughly translated as "gap", "space", "pause" or "the space between two structural parts."The spatial concept is experienced progressively through intervals of spatial designation. In Japanese, ma, the word for space, suggests interval. It is best described as a consciousness of place, not in the sense of an enclosed three-dimensional entity, but rather the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form deriving from an intensification of vision.

Ma is not something that is created by compositional elements; it is the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements. Therefore, ma can be defined as experiential place understood with emphasis on interval.

Left panel of the Shōrin-zu byōbu (松林図 屏風Pine Trees screen) by Hasegawa Tōhaku

Among English loanwords of Japanese origin, both Ma (negative space) and Ken (architecture) are written with the same character 間.

This Japanese kanji "Chinese character" 間 graphically combines 門 "door" and 日 "sun". The earlier variant character 閒 was written with 月 "moon" rather than "sun", depicting "A 門 door through the crevice of which the 月 moonshine peeps in".

The diverse Japanese pronunciations of 間 include on'yomi Sino-Chinese readings (from jian 間 or 间 "room; between; gap; interval") of kan "interval; space; between; among; discord; favorable opportunity" or ken "six feet"; and kun'yomi native Japanese readings ofai "interval; between; medium; crossbred", aida or awai "space; interval; gap; between; among; midway; on the way; distance; time; period; relationship", or ma "space; room; interval; pause; rest (in music); time; a while; leisure; luck; timing; harmony".

kanji for ma

In his 2001 book The Art of Looking Sideways, Alan Fletcher discusses the importance of exemplifying "space" as a substance:

Space is substance. Cézanne painted and modelled space. Giacometti sculpted by "taking the fat off space". Mallarmé conceived poems with absences as well as words. Ralph Richardson asserted that acting lay in pauses... Isaac Stern described music as "that little bit between each note - silences which give the form"... The Japanese have a word (ma) for this interval which gives shape to the whole. In the West we have neither word nor term. A serious omission.

Thomas Pynchon's book The Crying of Lot 49 stresses the concept of waste in language, in terms of negative space determining outcomes of actual events.

Derrick de Kerckhove described Ma as: “the complex network of relationships between people and objects”.

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