Negative Space in Interactive Methodology

Boxes and Arrows recently ran a great article on Foundations of Interaction Design. The article takes various artistic concepts and analyzes interaction design against them.

My favorite part, mainly because I’d never actually thought about teaching itself as having such a thing, is the section on negative space.

Negative space

All good design disciplines have a form of negative space. In Architecture and Industrial Design it is the hollowness or the space between solids. In Graphic Design it is “white space” what is left without color, line or form, literally the white part of the paper to be printed on. Sound design looks at silence, and lighting design looks at darkness.So what is the negative of interaction?

There are many places where you can “lack” something, or more accurately there are many layers. Are we only talking about the product action? What about our action? What about the space in between either entity’s action?

Pause – So clearly a pause in time where no action is taking place by anything that is part of the interaction experience. Often in interaction design we try to fill these gaps, but maybe these gaps are useful.

Cessation of thought – What if doing nothing created a reaction from the system? Well, one student thought this up with BrainBall ( at Sweden’s Interaction Institute ( As you think less the ball moves more.

Inactivity – Doing nothing, or the product doing nothing in reaction to an action may be a negative occurrence. This differs from pause, but in this case inactivity is the reaction to activity as opposed to just a cessation of activity.

Well whatever the negative space of interaction design is, it isn’t.

If you think about it, in our teaching the negative space is wait time. I know that doesn’t really agree with the article, but it’s that point where we stop talking, and the student has the chance to process, to think, on their own. It’s our negative space because the teaching art isn’t being practiced in that space, and it’s necessary to aid in the student learning.

I don’t think there could be a total absence of thinking or work in the teaching negative space, but it’s certainly something to think about.


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