As a sign painter I frequently have to remind myself to step back and look at what I’m doing from the proper distance.  Since my nose is usually about 10 inches from the work (really must look into better glasses) I can see all the flaws, uneven color coverage and not-quite-straight lines. When I step back, even  just a few feet, all of this goes away and what I’m working on magically looks the way I intended.

Proper viewing distance (ortho-stereoscopic position) is that point where you can take in the whole picture as it was intended to be seen.  Not so close that the image is lost in the pixels, half-tone dots, or brush strokes. Not so distant that the details are lost. What that distance is depends greatly on what is being viewed.  A billboard is designed to be viewed from hundreds of feet away.  A miniature landscape should be seen up close and personal.

Proper viewing distance is something to keep in mind in many aspects of life.  Perfection – or even tolerance – is strongly dependent on where the viewer is standing. Many of our judgments, positive and negative – are a product of our mental ortho-stereoscopic position.  Carolyn Jones explores one example of this in her blog post Judgment of Others.

How many of the things that bother you could be resolved if they were looked at from a different distance? If you stepped back and looked from a broader perspective, or moved in closer and could appreciate the details?