While I was attending the Digital Summit Detroit last week, the topic of white space came up in a few presentations. Meanwhile in some projects at the agency we had some discussions with clients who wanted to fill every available square inch.
Early in my career, I was taught that white space wasn’t what was left over after all the visual elements were used – it was a design element just like type or photos. Every day I see examples that illustrate the “cover every square inch” mantra. Like trade show booths with copy down at foot level. Or billboards with 20-word headlines, four URLs, and social media icons for every channel. Sometimes, quite simply:
Less is more.
See how I did that? You read that line because it was all on its own. It had impact, power, and simplicity. Three simple words. With space around them. A few other key benefits of white space:
- It helps the reader prioritize – when the entire space is filled, the brain can’t process what to pay attention to first. So, your primary benefit could get overlooked entirely.
- It improves readability – by making elements stand out, they are easily and quickly read and grasped.
- It separates and groups elements – keeping copy associated with the relevant visual is a key benefit of leaving some white space.
- It creates balance – the reader’s eye likes order and balance, thus attracting greater readership.
- It invokes imagination – by leaving some white space, the readers mind becomes freed to process what you’re saying and engages them to explore the possibilities.
An additional thought – “white space” doesn’t have to be white. When the term is used, it’s simply negative space. The color doesn’t matter, what does is the fact that it’s not filled by other elements.
So the next time you’re tempted to cram in just one more graphic to occupy that “empty” space, consider this:
“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery