Fill it Up

Arnhemmer Martijn Brugman is schrijver en geeft les aan ArteZ. Op de afgelopen editie van Facing Pages kreeg Brugman het podium voor een entr'acte waarin hij op gortdroge wijze zijn diepe ongenoegen uitte over de dynamiek tussen ontwerper en schrijver, met name als het op 'white space' aankomt. Wij genoten zo van zijn verhaal dat we Sjoerd Wenting vroegen een bijpassende illustratie te maken om vervolgens de blik van Brugman nog wat verder de wereld in te dragen.

Chris van Veghel

In this room are a lot of graphic designers. Don’t raise your hands. I just know. A lot. I know what you look like. I’m no graphic designer. I’m a writer. You know what I think about graphic designers? Probably not. I think graphic designers are thiefs. Really, they are. They steal space. They say: that story of yours. It’s too long. You have to cut out 500 words. You know what they put in place of these 500 words? White space. Or blown up typography. Or meaningless graphic figures. With gradient.

I ask them this question: I have to cut my story for white space?  Yes, they say, we make sure that your story will be read. We create space, for the reader, space to breath. That’s stupid, I tell them. Because stories need no space to breath. Stories breath on their own. Even more: stories are oxygen. Oxygen for the soul.

You know how I think about white space? White space suffocates content. When I tell them this, they just ignore it. You’re a writer they say. You don’t know what you are talking about. And sometimes they say: Listen, the space, it’s not white. We gave it a grey layer.

White space, I hate it. Almost as much as grey layers.

A colleague of mine, he is a writer, you know what he says: cut your text in half, double your readers. You know why he says that? Because he rents a workplace at a graphic design studio. He is indoctrinated. This is what graphic designers should do: Build a website. Make it a big one. And fill it up with white space. I don’t give a damn. No problem at all. Pixels are free. But paper is another story. White space on paper is a waste. It’s true. Open your eyes. You know I’m right.

Look around. There’s white space everywhere. We are surrounded by it. Everything is cut in half. Television is filled up with crap. Too much stupid game shows, too much reality shows, too much meaningless people talking about meaningless things. Too much white space.illu_fontanel_intext

Readers love white space. They love white space like children love sugar. You know what’s the problem with sugar? Little children want sugar. Candy, ice cream, popsicles, cake. Give little children a box of sugar canes and they start eating them. One after another. Hands full of sugar canes. And you know what they want after the sugar? More sugar. The more sugar you give them the more sugar they want. But sugar ruins their taste. Sugar drives them right into the greedy hands of McDonalds.

White space is sugar. Readers are like little children. White space spoils them. White space doesn’t make them smarter. White space is empty. It has no meaning. Stories have. Stories explain things. The best ones raise questions that make you think.

So fill up the white space.

The best magazine article ever written is called “Frank Sinatra has a cold“. It’s about Frank Sinatra who has a cold. You should read it. Published in Esquire in 1966. Written by Gay Talese. You know how many words the story is? 15 thousand. That’s a lot. That’s like 15 magazine pages loaded with text. But it’s worth every single page. Because it’s a wonderful story. The voice has a cold and that changes everything. Makes you think about Frank Sinatra. Makes you think about music. Makes you think about America. That story. It’s not sugar. It’s a six-course dinner in the best restaurant you can imagine.

Look it up on the internet. It’s free. Read it. And after you read it: Go fill up the white space.

Martijn Brugman

Illustratie: Stark Wark (Sjoerd Wenting)