What is Ma?

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Design is about finding a balance. There’s a Japanese word for the place in between – “ma”. It’s the interval of time between two things. It’s the point in the swing of a pendulum when the object switches from an upswing to a downswing. It’s the pause just between. It’s the moment just before something happens, or changes, or becomes clear, or comes into focus. But not yet. It’s the best part of the rollercoaster, right after the climb, and just before you fall. It’s anticipation. The space between. – Ma I think that’s where “design” is.

When you design something, you start with a blank page. The options seem endless and the task can seem too complex. In fact, most of us never get past this point. But, as you look at that blank page, memories of everything you’ve done before begin to enter your mind. Everything else you’ve seen, and (more importantly) experienced begins to flood the blank page.

Everything you know about the project wells up in your mind; the details, the interconnections, the opportunities, the obstacles, the patterns, and the context. Eventually, you’ll sense a change in direction about to happen. That’s when you start to draw… Right at the moment between what you knew before you started and what you are about to learn. – Ma