Tuesday, October 20, 2009

“Filling space”

I encounter many aspiring designers in my work. It seems that some of them aspire to fill troubling white space with stuff. Extra text, cheesy clip art, blurry photos. You get the idea. Here is a tip on how to use photography in PP files to “fill space.”


Ok, I know many of you just can’t do that. The draw is just too great. Like some universal force, you - must - fill - the - space. So give in to the dark side, but do it with style. Choose a single image, not many. And make sure it’s a good one. Here are some tips:

If you are discussing many ideas, you don’t need to have an image to represent each one. Really. Especially on the same page. A single image can be remarkably effective, and is usually better looking than a whole bunch of little images. It’s also more efficient. You can spend less time looking for one really great image instead of more time gathering a bunch of mediocre ones.

Look for imagery in unusual places. If you have a digital camera, you may already have some good images lurking around. And you can always take some more. Get really close to things or frame usual objects in unusual ways. Clouds, landscapes, ordinary objects around the house are all potentially great images.

Crop. Do what professionals do, crop an image so that it becomes more interesting. For example, a typical snapshot often has the subject perfectly centered in the middle of the frame with lots of space all around. Boring. If you crop the image so that the subject is off-center (Google rule of thirds) and that some of the subject is cut off by the frame, the same image can become more dynamic.

You don’t have to be literal. If your topic or business is not particularly photogenic or doesn’t lend itself to naturally stunning images, then go for beauty over fact. Many of us work in businesses that are either visually boring (or downright ugly) or so intangible that visualizing key ideas is fraught with the peril of cliché. Resist. In the context of filling space, beautiful images can stand on their own with no hidden meaning.

Avoid clichés. Think beyond what first comes to mind. For example, a crystal-clear picture of a diverse group of people sitting around a conference table with their sleeves rolled-up is a crummy expression of teamwork. What about a motion-blurred photo of an 8-person rowing crew?

Repeat. There is no law that says you can’t reuse the same image over and over again. In the context of filler images, combined with interesting cropping, a single image can easily be used throughout a presentation. As noted earlier, this also has the advantage of being more efficient.

Again, if you are filling space, consider why the space is there in the first place. Some professional designer probably intended for the space to be clean. But if you must alter the design, try to do it well.

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