Proper White Space is a lesson in balance

An example of proper white space in print design

One of the first things that true graphic and fine artists learn is that “White Space” is a positive, and will be properly utilized in every successful design.  This is also the main element that many casual or home designers tend to overlook, or even totally disregard.

What is “White Space” and is it always white?  “White Space,” often called “negative space,” is the space between elements in a design, layout or composition. Technically, there are two types of “White Space” – macro and micro.  The space between major elements in a composition is called “macro white space.” Micro white space is the space between smaller elements: such as between items in a list, a photo caption and the picture, or in some cases between words and even letters.

White Space is used to create a well-balanced layout. When a reader/viewer looks at a design, their eyes take a journey from element to element.  This is similar to photography when a photographer positions the subject in such a way to accent the space. When the reader/viewer looks at a piece, and successfully navigates from item to item, and each item in the composition has a base support of negative space, this are called active white space.  When a reader/viewer looks at a piece, and sees the space that is included within the active space, (such as the space between lines, letters and words) this is called passive white space.  In order for a piece to work successfully – the active and passive pieces must come together in a harmonious union.

In web design versus print design, achieving successful white space is not always clear-cut.  Web designers do not always have the tools to achieve the perfect balance.  But if they follow a few simple rules, they can achieve white space success.

• Body Text should be short and to the point. Limit the number of sentences per paragraph.

• Ensure headlines are clear, concise, and large enough to be easy to read.

• Adjust line spacing so it has room to breathe; better open than cramped.

• Use light-colored backgrounds behind large blocks of text, which should be in a contracting color.

• Break content into smaller concise and targeted pieces, and utilize multiple pages.

Once a designer grasps how to design to and implement the space in their work – outside, inside, and around the content – they will find they have a more pleasing to the eye and successful finished piece.  And no … it’s not always white.


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