Visual noise is physical clutter in the design world.  Growing up in Tokyo one becomes accustomed to all the visual noise of the city in the shape of advertisements on buildings, inside stations, trains, buses and virtually everywhere.  With millions of people in a confined area, space is a premium so it is filled with information.

While working in Tokyo using the fabulous public transportation system, one learns to become numb to the crowds and pushing that comes with the rush hour commute.  You are physically squeezed between strangers, trying to stay still and polite at the same time.  During this quiet ride, time is passed by reading or in my case, trying to read all the advertisements hanging inside the train.  And there are lots of them in a very uniform display.  Today, they even have monitors with news flashes to keep everyone occupied.  There is a huge amount of visual noise that exists in Tokyo but because it surrounds you all day, you learn how to block most of it.  It’s just like when you first move next to a freeway and you can’t sleep because of the noise.  But, amazingly within a few months you don’t hear it any more.  We learn to block out the noise.  However, just because we don’t hear or see the noise does not mean it disappears.  It is still there.  And because it is still there it has an effect on our well-being.  Visual noise does take its toll on our well-being by draining our energy.

After being away for many years I visited Tokyo.  It is still a vibrant and exciting city and I love it.  But, I found that after a few days, I was over stimulated.  I didn’t know how to block all the visual noise.  And this can be draining if you are not aware of what is happening.  So, how do the Japanese compensate for all this stimulation?  They generally like simple forms and less color in their homes.   Because the size of their home is smaller, they must collect less, give away more and quality is more important than quantity.  This may be a good habit for all of us to learn.  Remember the scale of your room and the amount of space you have.  Allow your eyes space to rest.  Be aware of your surroundings and clearing the clutter will give you new found energy.  May everyone embrace the New Year with plentiful qi!

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