What comes to mind when you think of the word design? Maybe you think of an artist sitting in front of a canvas to paint. Maybe you picture yourself drawing or sketching with a pencil and paper. Or maybe you think about the elements of a design, like shapes, colors, and lines all working together to form a cohesive image.
When we hear design in our world, we think about web and graphic design, or digital art canvases. Our team has created thousands of images, graphics, website pages, and more over the past 16 years. Design experience has taught us creative lessons along the way. A very important, but often overlooked design principle, is the use of white space.
We asked our team of expert designers to share some thoughts on what white space is and the role it plays in design. Here’s what they shared.
Amoy Nicholson – Web Designer
White space, commonly referred to as negative space, gives designs a simple, clean, and minimalist look. White space is often viewed on two spectrums: macro vs micro and active vs passive.
Macro refers to the area between copy, graphics, image, etc. Micro is the gap between tiny parts, like line height and letter spacing (kerning and leading).
Active whitespace is when a website flows smoothly and directs the user down a page to a conversion point (call-to-action, form, etc.). Gaps that appear spontaneously in design or typography are referred to as passive white space.
All of these elements must work together in a design to achieve an end goal. One section may entice someone to stop and read, another may be to grab their attention, and still another may be to move on to the next thing on the screen.
Scott Cooper – Graphic Designer
The principle of white space is crucial to great design. It helps focus the attention of the user or reader and engages them with the message, action, or experience. It allows the design to breathe. “Less is more” is almost always the best approach to design, music, and other forms of communication, and white space helps achieve that in design.
John Centofanti – Creative Lead
White space is an important design principle, but often an afterthought. When it comes to websites and web pages, there’s no reason to cram content on a page because the page can be endless. While many web designers want to ensure certain content is above the fold, a clean, compelling design is a better tool to encourage your visitor to keep scrolling.
Digital PDFs are a different story. There is often a challenging balance between what the content writer insists on including and how much content a designer can fit on a page without sacrificing whitespace. Although digital PDFs can also be multiple pages, people on sales teams often refer to them as one-pagers. Some companies still print one-page marketing collateral for events, so keeping it to one page is important.
No one likes to cut important content, but a design that captivates the reader will keep prospects engaged longer than the fine details of a marketing brochure with too much text.
There’s an interesting quote about writing that we feel also applies to design:
“If you want to be a better writer [or designer], learn to use a scalpel.”
White space is a powerful tool that improves the effectiveness of designs. The answer to “what is missing” in design is not the right question. Instead, we should be asking, “what should be removed” or “what CAN be removed” to make this design better.
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