Achieving Feng Shui in Design—and Within the Creative Team

Editor’s Note: The following piece was contributed by Mathilde Neiman, senior operations manager for Pixartprinting North America, a leading web-to-print business that has recently launched online printing services for creative professionals in North America. 

Everyone has heard of the concept of Feng Shui, and most designers have been trained to understand elements and principles of design. Perhaps what some are not aware of, though, are the benefits of applying these values to not only achieve Feng Shui in design itself, but also within the design industry.

Accomplishing Feng Shui in these areas can and should be approached in a manner not unlike the creative process: with the idea that every single detail plays a critical role and contributes equally to the bigger picture. Feng Shui, or harmony, in design is both based on and achieved by the elements and principles of art. These two components must be considered in order to create compelling pieces of work that consistently evoke positive reactions.

feng shui in design and in the creative workplace

photo by Dmitri Popov


In design, elements are the fundamental components of an artistic image. They can take the form of lines, shapes, values, textures and space. Elements are symbiotic and cannot exist without consideration of each other. For example, lines can create shapes, which create form. The idea of “space” cannot exist without considering at least one of the other elements. Elements paint an excellent picture of how a professional environment, like an agency, could and should function. Designers, producers and art directors work together to strive toward one unified end goal. Like Feng Shui, tweak one function or role, and everyone else will be affected for better or for worse.

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Andrew Ridley” width=”600″ height=”450″> photo by Andrew Ridley


The principles of design determine how the elements of design are used in an artistic image.


    Balance is the distribution of visual weight in a work of art. It can be either symmetrical or asymmetrical.

  • Rhythm is the repetition of visual movement in the form of colors, shapes or lines.
  • Pattern uses the art elements in planned or random repetitions.
  • Movement directs viewers to a focal point in the image.
  • Contrast is the difference in various elements, like color, texture or shape.
  • Emphasis is used to create focus in the work by way of color, value or shape.
  • Unity is the main goal of graphic design. When all elements are in agreement, a design is considered unified. No individual part is viewed as more important than the whole design [NHS Designs].

All of the above can be applied in some way to working relationships with the goal of achieving unity or Feng Shui between different members in the industry. Here is a more in-depth look at how
balance and emphasis and contrast can be applied to the creative workplace.

feng shui in design and in the creative workplace

photo by Markus Spiske

Balance & Emphasis

Find balance between obligations and your own creative needs. If you’re a client, understand that designers, and creative people in general, produce the best work when there is a good balance between the two. A Print columnist once offered the following advice to a designer who had begun to resent the work assigned to him when it prevented him from doing the work he really wanted to do: “Doing something you love sometimes requires doing something you hate.”

It’s important for all parties to understand the importance of balance between fun and obligation. When there is a give-and-take dynamic between assigned work and a creative outlet, the end result will be a lot more compelling.

To achieve balance is to understand where to place emphasis. It is to know which clients require more focus and how to prioritize accordingly. In the context of balance between work and obligation, it would be to emphasize and address both the needs of the client and those of the designer. If there is not enough focus on one, the other will suffer.


It’s essential to establish boundaries between staff and their respective responsibilities. David C. Baker wrote an article on how to get clients to listen more. In doing so, he perfectly sums up the importance of contrast in a professional situation:

“Make sure that within a given client relationship, the same person is not managing the client relationship and doing the client thinking … clients will not listen well to strategic guidance if it comes from the same person managing the daily account activity … it’s not about ability either, but about wanting the deeper advice to come from someone a bit more ‘apart’ from the daily routine.”

In a different article, Baker wrote, “you can’t play every instrument in the orchestra.” While it would be entertaining to watch someone try to play every instrument in the orchestra at once, imagine a single person trying to juggle all the work that goes into a creative project and how boring it would turn out! A clear contrast between roles and responsibilities will always lead to a more engaging design. It not only prevents co-dependence and micro-management but it also creates more opportunities to approach projects from a number of different angles.

Feng Shui and design are based on a set of building blocks and processes, and the two are remarkably similar in what they seek to accomplish: unity and harmony. The same goes for the many different relationships within the design industry. If you approach your work environment like you’d approach a creative assignment, suddenly the challenge is much less daunting. It’s all about interpretation.

In the online workshop, Managing & Leading Creative Teams, Andy Brenits will share the techniques and skills he has used to build creative teams, manage resources, and lead people. You’ll have some practical tools to enhance your creative skills with those needed to manage, and lead, your in-house creative team and bring added value to your corporate culture.