A quick definition: white space is the area of a page in which no text or imagery appears. Also known as negative space, it’s essentially the empty bits between the content.

But it’s also a part of the content. And it shouldn’t be overlooked as accidental or coincidental. Most of the time, the white space you see on web pages or advertisements is very much deliberate. But why might a designer want to add in ‘nothing’? What are the benefits of white space and why is it important?

Balance

The cleaner the design, the more balanced it will be. The more balanced it is, the easier it will be to digest. This is one of the most important reasons to employ white space: it makes things easier to understand. With clever use of white space, the reader is able to comfortably absorb what’s in front of them without being overpowered by busy layouts and lots of images.

Focus

When utilising white space, unnecessary details are automatically stripped away. This means that the focal point of your design, be it an image or piece of text, will naturally shift into focus. With no extraneous details to clog the page or divert the eye, the heart of the message will stand out organically. And separate parts of the page won’t be in competition for your reader’s attention.

Legibility 

A common white space sin is to ghost a large image into the background of a page and layer the text on top. This can be the cause of some major legibility issues. Imagine, for example, an image of a redbrick house under a cloudy sky. Imagine that this image takes up one side of A4, and written over the top are a few paragraphs of advertising copy in white font. The colour contrast between the text and the house won’t be too bad, but what about the clouds? White-on-white will likely be problematic. The best solution for this kind of problem would be to avoid using an image as the background.

Less is more

This old adage is as true as ever. Less really is more. And replacing large blocks of text or unnecessary images with white space is the perfect way to simplify a page. It’s not something to be afraid of. By incorporating white space in a thoughtful and somewhat strategic manner, you can drastically enhance the impact of your design whilst reducing the actual amount of content it delivers.

Even by simply increasing the size of your margins, you can give the impression of less without taking anything away. It’s easier to read a line of text when it contains fewer words, so by widening margins you’re fabricating white space whilst also increasing readability.

For more design tips and tricks, check out the Red Square blog. And if you’d like help utilising white space on your next design project, why not get in touch for a free consultation to see if we can help?