Design Series: Space

This post is a companion to Sandy’s Quilting…for the Rest of Us podcast episode. Listen via iTunes or Podbean. The last design series episode was on Form.

Space is a principle of design

Space is related to form, and, thus, to shape.

Design on the field
Design on the field

Source: via Jaye on Pinterest




  • In two dimensional art forms, such as quilts, an illusion of space is created using different techniques such as size, overlapping, vertical location, aerial perspective, linear perspective, one-point perspective, two-point perspective, multipoint perspective, etc. (Pentak & Lauer, pg.171)
  • “…the space around the object can distract, focus, or alter our impression. A cluttered background tends to diminish the importance of the object, while a plain background draws attention to it.” (Art Design & Visual Thinking
  • “Two-dimensional design is concerned with the flat space” on which the design takes place “and the illusion of three-dimensional space. The major methods of controlling the illusion of space are:”
Overlap objects in front of one another
Shading modeling with light and dark
Linear perspective the relationship between apparent size and space
Atmospheric perspective how the atmosphere affects the appearance of objects in space

(Design Notes:

    • “Each composition is filled with positive and negative space. Design elements usually occupy positive space and are surrounded by negative space. The amount of negative space within a design field can greatly impact a composition.” (A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color and Design, pg.130)
White Space (
White Space (

Source: via Jaye on Pinterest


  • With three dimensional art, such as a sculpture, one can see how the object occupies space by walking around it, looking from above, below or from the side. Three dimensional objects have height, width and depth. With two dimensional art [like a quilt], the arrangement of objects on the design field can be crowded with lots of objects or nearly empty with very few objects. These design elements have height and width, but no depth. (A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color and Design, pg.130)
  • “Forms and shapes can be thought of as positive or negative. In a two dimensional composition, the objects constitute the positive forms, while the background is the negative space. For beginning art and design students, effective use of negative space is often an especially important concept to be mastered. [An] exercise in cut paper require[s students] to work with the same composition in black on white and white on black simultaneously. This makes it difficult to ignore the background and treat it as merely empty space. The effective placement of objects in relation to the surrounding negative space is essential for success in composition.
  • Some artists play with the reversal of positive and negative space to create complex illusions. The prints of M. C. Escher … often feature interlocking images that play with our perception of what is foreground and what is background. Other artists take these illusions of positive and negative images to even greater lengths, hiding images within images. Perception of form and shape are conditioned by our ingrained “instinct” to impute meaning and order to visual data. When we look at an image and initially form an impression, there is a tendency to latch on to that conclusion about its meaning, and then ignore other possible solutions. This may make it hard to see the other images. Training the eye to keep on looking beyond first impressions is a crucial step in developing true visual literacy.”(Art Design & Visual Thinking


Two-dimensional design takes place on a surface called the picture plane. The picture planes” you use your quilt. We have also been calling this the design field”For a painter it is the canvas, for a muralist the wall.The significance of the picture plane becomes apparent when you think of the image on picture plane as being like what you would see if you were looking through a window. A flat image, like one of your figure/ground projects, appears to be pasted to the window (picture plane) with no space extending beyond it. A photograph or any image that shows the illusion of space appears to extend beyond the picture plane. In rare instances it is possible to make the image project in front of the picture plane.”

(Design Notes:


A Fiber Artist’s Guide to Color and Design by Heather Thomas

Art Design & Visual Thinking

Design Notes:

Design Basics, 5th, c.1999, David A. Lauer, Stephen Pentak