Thursday, January 12, 2012

Finding Balance...

By Susan J. Slotkis, Allied ASID, IFDA, IDEC

Interior Design Services and Education
Profiles – Personalized Interiors
Author of Foundations of Interior Design, Fairchild Books

Is it the elusive hide and seek, catch as catch can, or merely an idealized notion? Perhaps we know balance best when it’s missing! We juggle priorities; we juggle trivialities. More accurately they juggle us. Multitasking, no longer relegated to just simultaneous computer processing, it defines our communications and our social interactions.

Balance, the state of equilibrium may also be thought of as homeostasis. It may be physical or emotional steadiness, or both. We all know how it feels when something is out of sync, when we have a headache (or a belly ache or a backache) nothing feels right! Interior design manipulates balance through different approaches. Balance in design may be achieved in a few ways:

Symmetrical balance relies on “mirror image” when the elements of a space are arranged identically on either side of a vertical axis. Traditional architecture and interiors are based on the Classic Greek principles such as those venerated and used later by Robert Adam of the Neoclassic Period. It’s a static and formal approach to design. Why static? Well, if you were to remove one element on either side of the axis, you have that state of “no balance” which may be disconcerting, unstable, and even stressful.

GRANGE 1904 Collection vignette illustrates symmetry

 Asymmetrical balance relies on the concept of achieving equal “visual weight” of elements that are not identical. This is perhaps more difficult to achieve than symmetrical balance, but often results in a more fluid and satisfying approach to design. Elements that are not identical may appear or be perceived as being equal in weight due to many factors. Among these factors is the degree of light transmitted through them from none (opacity), to some (translucency) to all (transparency). A large rice paper light globe which transmits much of the lightness outward from its boundaries will appear to be heavier than a small light source shielded with an opaque black shade.

Certain colors are denser and appear heavier, such as black and violet vs. white and yellow. Saturated or intense colors have more visual weight. Another way is alter the perception of visual weight is through spacing. As spaces become narrower, the weight of those objects will intensify.
Most often we think about the vertical axis, from left to right (right to left for some). But, another dimension is to explore the horizontal axis or even the diagonal axes for a more enhance experience of harmony.

Radial balance also used in classical architecture and design relies on the arrangement of equal elements radiating out from a central point, like the spokes of a bicycle wheel.

Photographers and graphic designers often use the Rule of Thirds. This technique aligns the subject along or at the intersection of two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, creating a much more interesting composition. The image below demonstrates this rule:

The degree to which we require or appreciate balance is subjective, contextual, let’s say even temporal. For example, after a long day exposed to a lot of sensory stimulation, balance becomes more important to me. However, if the intention (after all, design is intent) is to awaken, excite, perhaps even disturb the senses, a lack of balance may be the best design for that scenario. So, either way, it helps to know it when you find it.

I hope this helps you find some balance in 2012!

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