Whether you’re a small business owner or a marketing professional, you want to create designs that raise brand awareness, solve problems, and leave meaningful first impressions on your customers. If you don’t use design elements properly, prospects might feel overwhelmed or develop a negative view of your company. But if an ad or website is designed strategically, people will pay more attention to — and have a better experience with — your brand.
One way to do this is to make sure you’re implementing enough white space, no matter what you’re creating. We’ll walk you through what white space is, why we need it, how it helps the viewer, and more — plus helpful poster examples to show you white space in action. We also sat down with Erin, one of our designers, to pick her brain about the importance of white space.
White space, or negative space, is the zone around design elements (like margins) and the area between visuals (like the spacing between lines or letters on a page). Despite its name, white space doesn’t have to be white. It can be any color, texture, pattern, or background image that serves as a tool to bring the rest of your visual elements together.
“College was the first time I really learned about design,” Erin says. “I was taught about layout design, and that’s when I first learned how white space can be used as a tool that keeps a brand identity clean and recognizable.”
The Interaction Design Foundation says that negative space is “like a canvas; it’s the background that holds the elements together in a design.” In other words, white space in design draws together the rest of the visuals on an ad or a page and gives them a spot to be displayed — just like a canvas holds the colors and shapes of a painting together and lets them stand out.
White space in design is necessary for several reasons:
Some people think white space is wasted space that could be used to house other design elements or more information. But white space improves the user’s experience by helping them feel more at ease as they view your marketing materials.
“It seems to bother people to leave parts of a design ‘empty’ because they think they need to say everything at once so their own customers will get the full picture,” Erin says. But people see 5,000 to 10,000 advertising messages every day, and they’re tired of information overload — which is often what happens when you don’t use much (or any) white space.
“It’s hard to create a design with enough white space and balance when I’m working with too much copy,” Erin tells us. It’s that sort of overwhelm (too much text going on in a small space) that can make a viewer check out instead of continuing to read or scroll to learn more about your business.
But by keeping your design simple with plenty of white space, you’re helping users remain calm and “breathe” with easy-to-read text and visual elements that don’t overwhelm them. Plus, decluttering the design and information you’re visually presenting to customers will help the important things stand out.
Incorporating white space into your graphic design with help your visuals be more legible, express your brand’s personality, and grab (and keep) the viewer’s attention.
You’ll want your piece to be as legible as possible, no matter what (or how much) content you’ve included in the ad or page. It will help to think about white space when you’re choosing typography (or written text) for your piece. For example, what font color would be easiest to read? How far apart should the letters, sentences, or paragraphs be spaced to improve readability for the customer?
White space will not only help with legibility, but also brand awareness and expression. Large amounts of white space may evoke minimalism and/or luxury, as you’ll find with brands like Apple, IKEA, or Mercedez-Benz. Less white space, on the other hand, might be appropriate for a more informative company like The New York Times. The amount of white space you choose can therefore express something about your brand — a perception that can lead to higher brand recognition and recall when you’re designing with a consistent amount of white space.
Finally, using white space in design can improve a viewer’s focus by directing their attention to a specific part of the ad or website. For example, you can surround another design element (like a photo) with negative space to draw the viewer’s eye to that photo.
The amount of negative space your design needs truly depends on your brand, the emotions or perception you’re trying to evoke, and your messaging needs. Really, it all comes down to balance.
“If a design is cluttered, the client or reader will have to work harder to get the information they need,” Erin explains. “When you use enough white space, your design can breathe, and your important information can be absorbed more quickly.
When your design is legible and clean, the information you’re trying to share comes across easily and powerfully, and you have a nice balance between visual elements, that’s when you know you’ve effectively used white space in design.
The best graphic designers will take your feedback and preferences into account while also holding fast to proven design principles and the strategy behind your brand. “Sometimes, this is as simple as making sure the layout of the design is formatted well,” Erin says. “That could mean using visuals cohesively with the content, or having a proper text hierarchy to make it easier for people to read and understand what matters.”
Other times, you might work with your designer to adjust the end product. “Is there enough space to visually present all of your important information in a balanced way — for example, would a trifold or a small booklet be better for your needs and target audience?” Erin says. This will require more back-and-forth with the designer, but he or she is simply trying to make sure your brand’s messaging and visuals come across clearly and effectively.
“I always try to design something balanced and purposeful for a client with all the information they have provided, but sometimes we have to explain why another photo or more content just won’t work,” Erin says. “Ultimately, we want our clients to succeed and give their customers a great experience.”
Using white space in design will help you draw visual elements together, keep a viewer’s attention without overwhelming them, make a better impression for your brand, and more.
“White space is your friend!” Erin reminds us. “Don’t be afraid to use it and use it often.”
Incorporating the right amount of negative space — and other visual and marketing elements — in your designs isn’t always easy. A graphic design expert can help you create something beautiful that also gets your brand’s messaging across clearly and effectively.
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Treefrog Marketing is an agency in Lafayette, Indiana focused on small business. We specialize in strategic marketing and advertising, graphic design, web design, social media, SEO, and more. For more information, visit our website and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.