It seems many people are scared of empty spaces. For a business owner, every inch of surface area must be covered in order to extract full value for the dollar. Any open area is a waste. If you’re not filling all the space with images and information you’re throwing money down the drain!
This is definitely not true.
Any design with no white space is like an assault on the viewer. Let’s pretend you have a neighbour who is an aspiring drummer. In earnest he practices all day and all night for a week. If he stopped to have lunch, imagine how much you might enjoy that hour of silence. How your head would feel clearer and how easily you could now hear the ringing in your ears.
White space is like silence to music. A way to appreciate what is there.
Just as Yin and Yang are required in equal measure to ensure balance and harmony in nature, so too is empty space required to appreciate visual stimulation. Too much of one or the other is a disruption in the forces of the universe. For some reason, most people feel a compulsion to tip the scales in the favour of visual noise. Maybe it’s the result of the “always on” environment we’re in where we feel a need for access to information and stimulation 24 hours a day.
Whatever the reason is, you don’t have to add to the noise. Not only is white space a great tool to direct attention to your message, it’s a powerful way to differentiate yourself from the noise. Open spaces give the viewer room to breathe and direct the eye to the action – the place where your important message resides.
A common misconception about empty space is that it is exactly that – “empty”. The truth is that vacant spaces do indeed have weight, quite a bit of it in fact. If you were to take a blank sheet of paper, in any size, and draw a stick figure or shape on one side you might notice that the weight of the small drawing is balanced by the weight of the space around it. (If you actually do this exercise, I will be impressed. You only need to imagine it, though). Even if you still don’t buy into the idea that white space has weight that’s okay, so long as you think of it as providing balance and clarity to your message.
White space is one tool you can use to show the viewer where you want them to look. If you have text, images and “CLICK ME” buttons all over the homepage of your website, you might get a few click throughs but not as many as you might have if you had a little space where the viewer could collect their thoughts before their eye was drawn to that one, clear button surrounded by a gentle padding of empty space.
What applies for images also applies for text. Endless reams of copy quickly starts to look like static on an old TV unless the monotony is broken by a little space and a pretty picture that drives the message home.
If you want to fully appreciate the value of white space and understand how to use it properly, look to any premium brand for inspiration. Their branding always leans toward minimalist design with lots of emptiness to ease your senses. Think of brands like Apple and Volkswagon.
One final word on white space – it doesn’t have to be white. Any open area where there isn’t a lot going on is considered white space. It is essentially an area where there is less detail, a place where a viewer can glance at it or see it out of the corner of their eye and still take it all in. Nature does this in the most elegant way when she places a crowded forest against the backdrop of a clear sky.
Now your task is to look at your marketing material and see where you can find a way to eliminate clutter and create some breathing room.