Some people think that to make an excellent design; you need to fill your space with as many elements as you can. The pros disagree. Designers understand that what makes a great design isn’t so much what you see, but also what you do not see. It’s not just how much of the space is filled, but also how much of it isn’t. This why white space is a crucial element is graphic and web design.
What is white space?
The term pertains to the space between the elements of the design. It is the part of the page that contains no lines, images, or text. It is the space between graphics, boxes, columns, words, and margins. It is what casual observers may call the empty space.
Undeniably, white space makes for clean-looking content. The human mind has a natural affinity for order and this is one of the reasons tidy visuals tend to be more attractive than cluttered ones. A clean page is easier on the eyes and the mind and as such, is preferred by most viewers. In fact, white space is one of the best ways to enhance the visual appeal of your output.
There are two kinds of white space:
- Active white space. This refers to the space that you deliberately add to your design to create a particular effect, whether it is to lead your viewer’s eye or to emphasize a point, among others.
- Passive white space. This pertains to space that occurs naturally, such as the spaces between the lines of a paragraph.
Contrary to what its name suggests, white space isn’t always white. It is simply the portion of the page that designers don’t want you to focus on. As such, it may come in different colors and may even feature repetitive patterns or shapes.
Why do you use white space?
Some consider white space the fundamental building block of good design, and for good reason, too. When used properly, white space can do wonders for your output. Here are some of its merits:
- It makes content easy to understand. Too many elements in your design can be difficult for viewers to take. White space minimizes visual stimuli to the bare minimum, helping the brain cope more effectively and take in information more readily. This is especially true when your content offers text for users to read. A study suggests that the effective use of white space can have a positive impact on the comprehensibility of the text in your content.
- It helps guide your viewer’s focus. Removing unnecessary elements and using a healthy amount of white space helps your reader focus on the message you want to convey. Instead of having to interpret extra images or text, your readers only have to focus on which part of the content truly matters.
- It helps creates emphasis. Do you want users to perform a certain action after seeing your design? Then place a call to action (CTA) and make sure it is the most visible part of your content. The easiest way to do this is to use sufficient white space around the CTA to make it stand out. You practically leave them with no choice but notice your CTA and just maybe do what you want them to do. Needless to say, you can also use this strategy for other elements in your design, such as specific symbols, words, or pictures.
- It helps create balance. This is an important factor to consider in any design. Even if you use loud and busy graphics, you can still create a lovely design by employing enough white space as a counterbalance of sorts. This is a strategy commonly used in magazines and newspapers where pictures and text are commonly found together.
- It acts as an effective separator. Do you need to establish borders between the various elements of your design? Look no further and just use the trusted white space. This is a great way to create neat partitions without using new elements that will overload your output. In fact, you’ll even end up placing better emphasis on the different parts of your page.
- It imbues sophistication and elegance. Apple is currently one of the first brands that come to mind when you mention sophistication. Steve Jobs-era Apple products effectively combined simplicity, sleekness, and elegance not just in their design, but also in their functionality. These qualities are visible and are reinforced even, by the amount of white space used on the Apple website. All you see are products against a stark white or black background, as well as a line or two of well-written text. This emphasis on minimalism is an aesthetic that’s also followed by many luxury brands.
- It allows viewers to use their imagination. White space isn’t emptiness all throughout. It can also mean potential. Using it right is like creating a cliffhanger at the end of the story. You practically tell viewers to let their imagination run wild and decide what else the design is trying to say besides what is obviously present. It evokes a sense of mystery. This is great for designs that connote growth, transformation, or the passage of time.
Many marketers are concerned with ensuring that viewers receive the message they want to convey fully. As such, they often end up choosing a design that is filled with as many elements as they can fit into the page. While delivering the right information is vital—and is, in fact, the main motivation behind almost any designing endeavor—the right amount of care must be taken in ensuring that said message is provided effectively in a manner that viewers and readers would appreciate and easily digest.
White space tempers what could be convoluted design and provides observers’ eyes with enough opportunity to pause and really take in what they are looking at. White space is attractive, versatile, and is potent at capturing and managing the attention and expectations of viewers. As such, using it right is essential to creating an excellent design.