I was excited as I read through the syllabus of this class to discover that much of our journey would consist of stylistic choices in regards to presentation and creation of instructional materials. I consider myself the “creative cat” type, being a singer/songwriter, English Teacher, and lover of all things art. My excitement grew when I discovered that the text for this class, Presentation Zen Design, explains design using Zen concepts as a foundation for understanding. Zen is always something I have loved to learn about. In college, I took Zen Buddhism classes, and began taking yoga and meditating. My senior seminar paper was entitled Zen in Scottish Literature.
One concept I remember from my studies of Zen is the concept of the “pregnant zero”. The pregnant zero basically means if you have “nothing” anything can happen, any idea, possibility, or moment could be born into that space. This goes along nicely with the concept of “pu”, the uncarved block. A block that is uncarved can become anything. It is pregnant with potential.
I kept these thoughts in mind as I created this blog. I wanted my style choices to reflect the simplicity, and even the emptiness, of the pregnant zero and the uncarved block. Author of Presentation Zen Design, Garr Reynolds, puts it in design terms, stating, ” As a general principle, create visuals and other designs that express what is necessary. Minimize or eliminate that which is excess” (15). Therefore, I chose this “Minnow” theme because I appreciated how simple it was. It felt clean, empty, and able to give birth to new ideas for both me, the writer, and my possible audience.
I also wanted to keep in mind my audience. Reynolds reminds us to design with our audiences’ needs in mind. When describing type he says, “Type must make our words clear. Audiences should not have to work hard just to decipher meaning from the letter forms” (30). This concept could be applied to a blog design as well. I chose a design that is readable, easy to scroll through, and lacking in general “bells and whistles”. I don’t want my audience to have to struggle to navigate or read my posts. I want it to feel like a simple experience, such as that of opening a book and reading.
When playing around with color schemes, I decided black and white was the cleanest choice. The “white space” provided in a simple black and white format allows my words to breathe, and keeps the focus clear. When browsing the internet we are already so easily distracted by ad’s on the sidebar, pop up messages letting us know we’ve gotten some social media notification, and images upon images to scroll through. Therefore, I wanted this space to embody a cleanliness, which denies the clutter of our everyday internet experience. Reynolds says, “The biggest mistake that most people make is seeing empty space as something that must be filled in– as something that is wasted unless it is filled with more elements” (17), so I tried to resist that urge as I created my blog.
Finally, the image of the multi-colored tree is my own. It was created from a Holga film camera during my freshman year of college. That Holga camera was a pregant zero in my life. Filled with empty film that could become anything. It was free from the instant gratification of digital film, but not from flaws. My pictures contained light leaks, color distortion, and other “mistakes” I could not have planned, but that only served to make my photography more beautiful. This is much like my journey through education. Our mistakes are transformative, and they allow us to give birth to new ideas and possibilities. It’s a simply beautiful process.
I hope you enjoy this simple blog, and all your pregnant zeroes.