History of UX: Feng Shui and Three Principals of UX

Aisyah Astri Damayanti
7 min readApr 14, 2022


I will try to document the results of my exploration of challenges at Binar Academy in chapter 2, which is about the history of UI and UX. But here I will only discuss some of the concepts that exist in Feng Shui and are used in the UX world, at the same time I will also give the reasons why I am interested in choosing this period.

The first thing that comes to mind when you hear Feng Shui and UX are two things that seem to be indifferent realms and their relationship seems ridiculous. However, it is recorded in history that the earliest period of UX based on the philosophy of Feng Shui in ancient Chinese civilization that is 6000 years ago or to be precise 4000 years BC has used the most basic principles of UX. Feng Shui translates as “wind” and “water”, and refers to the spatial arrangement of objects based on the flow of energy. Feng Shui aims to align people with their homes or workplaces in an optimal way and can increase comfort in terms of layout or design.

Just as an interior designer arranges furniture in a way that makes it easier for occupants to navigate the room, a UX designer will apply the same principles to create an app. The end goal remains the same, namely to design an intuitive and user-friendly experience to achieve functional convenience, ease of use, and user enjoyment.

The similarities between the two principles of Feng Shui and UX can be seen in the 3 concepts they both have, including:

1. Balance

balanced stone
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Feng Shui philosophy is a practice that has been used for thousands of years to create a comfortable, supportive, and healthy environment. This environmental aspect can be achieved through balance. In practice, Feng Shui is adept at practicing the complete yet opposing Yin and Yang in harmonizing the universe. The direct manifestation of Yin and Yang involving the five elements: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal is known as Wu Xing.

Feng Shui is described as the art of placement. One aspect of Feng Shui focuses on balancing energy in the home through interior design with the placement of furniture, colors, and other interior elements. A common practice to balance the water element in a bathroom is to include wood elements such as potted plants and wood colors such as brown and green. This will make the bathroom interior more comfortable and balanced.

wooden bathroom
Photo by shawnanggg on Unsplash

In UX, balance is the main actor, such as the balance between business goals and user goals, then content and design content, design layout, interaction, and typography. A skilled User Experience Designer will be proficient in determining the balance of each element.

2. Decluttering

Creating a functional and harmonious space requires a room atmosphere that refreshes the eyes (fresh). One way is to remove or eliminate objects or objects that are not needed. As a quote from Ken Kesey, an American novelist in his book One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest says “Take what you can use and let the rest go by.”

Clutter is defined as unfinished decisions or “unfinished decisions” in Feng Shui. In practice, Feng Shui arranges or arranges each object or object position to a more specific place in the house. Decluttering aims to pave the way for qi (energy or life force) to flow freely through the room. Feng Shui provides spacing or pauses between elements to make it easier for energy to flow.

Wind plan
Source : Pinterest

Decluttering in UX design is the reason why white space or negative space is considered an element in UX design. This is as important as the positive element of space or the main space that accommodates all the visual elements in the design. The white space function can lighten the cognitive load, give meaning to the design and make the design easier to see and enjoy. Unnecessary blocks of content, such as too many animations, and ads that are too forced (to fit into the frame) will create a cluttered display and should be minimized if you don’t want to get rid of them.

Maybe a website will look good if it can display all the information like long blocks of text and CTAs. However, there is a design pattern in UX called Progressive Disclosure which is a way of simplifying a design so that users will find what they need at the right time. In line with Progressive Disclosure, in Feng Shui, this can be likened to a kitchen utensil that will only be found or taken when needed. When opening the drawer to take the fork, it is arranged according to the need or type.

3. Functionality

UX Designers are experts when it comes to functionality. Every design made must have a purpose so that its function will refer to that purpose. One example of a website display that has poor functionality is an article or reading that uses a slideshow format. The user has to put in quite a lot of effort to get the information out of the article. The user must be aware that there is more reading than is shown on the screen, then the user must find a button to go to the next page. Finally, the user must also press the continue button each time to go to the next reading.

example of slides website
Source : www.lifewire.com/what-is-slideshare-how-does-it-work

There are alternative designs that can be applied to achieve the goal of making the online article, making it easier for users to find and understand the information in the article quickly. Like using a table of contents linked to a link to go to a specific topic. The easier it is for users to use, the better.

In Feng Shui, the design of a room can be arranged in such a way as to make certain areas function and have a good atmosphere. In practice, Feng Shui uses energy maps called Bagua to analyze the flow of qi (energy) so that each room has a specific function. Bagua is placed on top of the room plan to understand and optimize energy in a particular area. For example, the southeast direction is associated with wealth and prosperity so it is associated with the wood element. Tips for designing this area are to add wood elements, wood color elements, or other decorations such as plants and nature paintings.

Bagua Maps
Source : Pinterest

From these three concepts, it can be concluded that UX and Feng Shui have the same goal, namely to design a harmonious design and support comfort. This is one of the reasons I am interested in the Feng Shui period or 4000 BC to be precise. Feng Shui is closely related to design in everyday life, how every corner and location of an object or room is arranged in such a way as to create beauty, harmony, and comfort for anyone who sees or uses it.

Feng Shui principles can still be found today, usually used in building science or the design of a room. In Indonesia, there are many myths circulating about a building, one of which is a skewer house, a house at the end of a fork in the road according to the myth will always be unlucky even though this is because of the position of the house is directly exposed to the sun and the road so that the air circulation is not good and dusty. The principles of Feng Shui made me understand better the reasons behind the myths circulating in the community so that they can be used when tomorrow builds a house or wants to buy a building.



Aisyah Astri Damayanti

"As good as man is the most beneficial to others " Hadith Narration ath Thabrani