Design Claustrophobia is a visual anxiety disorder in which the design has a rational fear of having no way of escaping the page or being closed-in and silenced. It frequently results in a stagnant panic attack and can be triggered by certain stimuli or situations, such as too much copy, a complex message, multiple messages being shared at the same time, tight spaces, not enough white space, no room to breathe or rest, bad fonts, overwhelming ink consumption, digital clutter, etc. Some designs with claustrophobia find their anxiety levels rise when they have little to no white space to breathe in.
We appreciate plenty of space. We don’t like it when people pop our bubbles. We each crave that extra leg and elbow room. It’s hard to be productive when you’re crammed in a tight spot and overwhelmed with too much. Design is no different. White space — it’s a creative’s term — but the truth is that everyone appreciates space. Even in our homes the amount of ‘free space’ to space taken up by furniture and objects is a balancing act of sanity and stress. Truth is, if we treated our designs like we treated ourselves, design would not only look a lot better, but it could function better too. (Apparently breathing is important for living.)
You ever feel like you can’t get anything done because of that one sock left on the floor in the bedroom? (You know the one I’m talking about, didn’t pass the smell test but never made it to the hamper) It’s maddening. Sometimes impossible to push forward and try to focus with that sock chilling out of place. Science says that your sock can seriously restrict your focus and limit your brain’s ability to process information. So next time you’re feeling stressed or can’t focus, clear the clutter. Pick up your sock, clean the space you’re working in, make it organized. Then try again to sit and focus. You’ll find it easier to accomplish the task you have at hand and your brain will thank you.
Do the same with your design. When you’re getting overwhelmed and find yourself throwing the kitchen sink at it, clear the clutter. Start with a blank canvas. Given space and clarity, the message will be bold and jump out to your viewer in a simple and effective way.