How do Asian and Western design concepts differ?


Asian design has had an important influence on the west since the 1700s, when merchants would bring back exotic and luxurious furnishings from their travels in the east. In recent years eastern philosophies have become very popular in countries like England and America and the design principles of ‘feng shui’ have also come into fashion. Part of the reason people love eastern design so much is that it’s very different to the designs and images which are created in the west, although there are many similarities between the two styles.

One of the main things to come from Japanese design for example is the principle of Kanso, which basically means simplifying and de-cluttering a space. Nowadays the minimal look is very ‘on-trend’ in the west, but it could be argued that the whole minimalist movement was inspired by Japan. The look is all about having lots of space and only having the bare minimum in terms of furniture and accessories.

Whether you live in Tokyo, New York or London – living in a big city means you’ll probably live in a very small space with no room for clutter, which explains why the aesthetics of minimalism have become so popular in both the east and the west.

Feng Shui

Another principle of Asian design is asymmetry, for example circles are often depicted as not being entirely complete. In Japan, the ‘Zen circle’ or ‘enzo’ is used in brush painting and symbolises imperfection as a part of our existence. This is completely different to the west’s idea about how beauty is found in symmetry. In western design, importance is placed on alignment and repetition. In prints and patterns, symbols or images are repeated and spaced out evenly.

Nature is used as an influence in both the east and west although, in Asian design, certain images have certain meanings. For example, the plum symbolises endurance and adversity and the turtle symbolises longevity.

Eastern Design

Another difference between the two design sides is that in the west, designs are often intended to be loud and eye-catching and convey a strong message to the audience. Generally, nothing is really left to the imagination in these design as the image usually outlines its concept. In Asian design, the images create a sense of stillness and calm. While the picture may appear simple in a lot of cases, when one looks closer, a whole depth can be seen and it is left to the audience to create their own meaning.

While there are many differences between Asian and western designs, both seek a similar stance when it comes to space and balance. Structure and stability are both gained by keeping an image or designed balance and visually, something which is not too cluttered or too ‘heavy’ on one side are more appealing.

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