Mind the Gap: Designing for the In-Between Spaces

The magic of animation is actually found in those tiny spaces between images which blend together to bring the story to life.


I figured I needed a theme for this blog. So I started kicking around the idea of exploring the “in-between space”–an area that has always interested me.

in between

In animation, in-betweening refers to adding the frames between two images so that the movement appears smoother. The in-betweens are key in creating the illusion of motion. They are the blend between one state and another.

There’s another term that’s loosely used to talk about existing between different dimensions: “Two-and-a-Half D” (I originally was going to call this blog that–2.5 D–before self-consciously thinking that it looked too much like a bra size). Two-and-a-Half-D refers to an effect that plays with planes placed within a space. The parallax, lighting changes, and other cues that result from the movement make the flat visuals live in a world with depth. You might recall this technique in the animated sequences for The Kid Stays in the Picture.

Another way to picture this is to think of movement around a pop-up book–something that is at once flat and dimensional. On that note, I’ll take this opportunity to offer congratulations to Jamie Caliri and his team, who just won this year’s Emmy for television main title design for United States of Tara. I just heard him speak about how they constructed and shot it all stop-motion. Amazing. Bravo!


This gap in-between other things, or Zwischenraum as the Germans would say (or even better, tussendoor, in Dutch) is to me a curious place. There’s something about the tension of being neither here nor there. This could mean a bi-coastal existence (as mine often is), but mostly I mean it to be in that space where things meld together, and cease to be distinct, at once neither and both. So it can also be a way of describing that Venn overlap between graphic design and filmmaking, or cinema and architecture, or animation and live-action.

And, in a literal sense, in many ways some of my favorite projects are about creating delight in the “station breaks.” Film titles can do this–the credits are really a legal document, required to be part of the picture the way a copyright page is in a book. And of course, television commercials themselves are a prime example, the best ones having evolved from the stuff you skip to becoming entertainment in its own right. How nice it is when you find a tasty morsel on the way to the main meal!


MC Escher, whose work I had the pleasure of falling in awe with all over again at the Portland Art Museum a couple weeks ago, is the master of illustrating how something can straddle between two worlds (above, panels from his Metamorphosis I-IV). It was fantastic to be re-acquainted with those masterful illusions. Time to explore what new surprises will emerge from the spaces in-between!


[In-between sketch via Stick Figure Death Theatre]

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Karin Fong is a director and designer based in New York City. As one of the founding members of Imaginary Forces, Karin’s work spans the diverse worlds of entertainment, experience design, and advertising. Among her best-known projects are title sequences for such films as Terminator Salvation, The Pink Panther 2, Ray, Definitely Maybe, and Charlotte’s Web. Her work in designing television titles earned her an Emmy Award for Masterpiece Theatre’s American Collection and a nomination for the hit NBC series Chuck.

Karin’s interest in pushing the boundaries of cinematic experiences has resulted in numerous environmental design projects across the country, including sites as diverse as Las Vegas, Lincoln Center, and the Los Angeles Opera, while her expertise in both live action and design ultimately led to directing television commercials for such clients as Target, Honda, Sears, and Herman Miller. Recently named as one the Top 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company magazine. Karin has had work in the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, Artists Space, and The Wexner Center, as well as in numerous publications on film and design.

About the author

Karin Fong is a director and designer based in New York City. As one of the founding members of Imaginary Forces, Karin’s work spans the diverse worlds of entertainment, experience design, and advertising