Friday, October 7, 2011

Can Less Be More, Or When Is It Time To Stop Working On A Layout?

A CPR train travels through . . . emptiness.

Some people never get started building a layout. Others don't know when to stop. At least, that's the conclusion I reached after attending a train show recently.

What prompted that line of thinking was seeing layouts at the show where every square inch (or millimetre, up here in Canada) was filled with track, buildings, bridges, vehicles, more track, more buildings, more bridges, more . . .  you get the picture.

These layouts were so busy that they were almost unviewable. You didn't know where to look. It almost hurt your head.

I understand how this happens, especially when modular layouts are concerned. When someone only has 2 by 4 feet of space to fill, and lots of time to fill it with lots of stuff, it's easy to see how the module can become extremely busy.

(Not to mention modular layouts where airfields abut farm scenes that are beside skyscrapers that are next to mountain valleys . . . but I digress.)

The fact of the matter is that trains in North America travel through thousands of miles of . . . nothing. Well, not nothing, exactly, but not lots of urban and built-up areas. (Except, maybe, in parts of the urban northeast.) Their routes are defined more by what isn't there, than by what is.

But good luck trying to find layouts made for shows that feature mostly trains travelling on single tracks through forests, fields, hills and mountains. But when someone tries it, their work really stands out. We immediately know that it's different, special--more normal somehow.

Good graphic designers know that less is more. Not every inch of the page needs to be filled. I wonder if that's possible with layouts made for train shows, too?

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you completely. I find that many layouts are far past the saturation point when it comes to how much is going on in each scene. The thing about modular layouts is most are made to move and display often. Railfans and model railroaders alike appreciate the simpleness of a prairie scene with a single track winding through it and can be totally entertained. However, the general public will spend more time looking at a modular club layout that has a million different things going on as well as blinking LED's and sounds. More of a novelty for them, and an excuse for the modular club members to go all out.