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What is White Space and Why Is It Important In Design?

     -     May 6th, 2014   -     Accounting Marketing, Creative Design   -     0 Comments

When designing whether for traditional or online digital creative, it’s good to know what white space is and how it should be used to achieve the best design and layout results. First, let’s determine what white space is, then we’ll discuss why it’s good.

What is It?

Also called “negative space,” white space refers to any area on a traditional piece of creative or webpage that is not occupied by text. It includes the background, borders, ends of text lines and even the spaces between text lines—whatever color those spaces might be. Good designers, even students know that some blank space is essential for getting a message across. It is a cardinal rule in design no matter the medium, i.e. ads, posters, brochures, business cards, web pages or banners ads, etc. White space and the appropriate use of white space applies to any layout containing text.

Why is it a Good Thing?

White space conveys structure and establishes hierarchy in layout. Additionally, it helps to capture the reader’s attention. When there is too little space (think cruddy direct mail) all the information is crammed together creating a cluttered look that confuses the viewer to the point of not knowing where to look first. This type of reaction can turn off and disengage your audience to the point that they close the publication and not view your ad, or skip that page all together, or worse yet even toss your important piece of mail or click off your website.

When you see and review designs, keep in mind how negative space affects anyone looking at your creative. It’s OK to allow for large borders around the text and images. Don’t forget to also allow for enough “air” above and below text lines. This space above and below is called “leading” (pronounced ledding) so that the person looking at it will want to read the text. In fact, text is easier to read when the lines are short rather than long (think newspaper columns). So don’t be afraid to leave borders around columns of print.

Interesting Facts about White Space:

  • Paragraph indents were originally created to leave space for decorative capital letters to be printed at the beginning of the first line. That practice eventually gave way to indents, even when large caps weren’t being used.
  • In printed books, the right-hand  pages (called “rectos”) are thought to capture the reader’s attention more than left-hand pages (called “versos”), so left-hand pages following sections may appear blank, but right-hand pages, which usually feature chapter or section openings, never do.
  • The use of space between  paragraphs and in the left and right margins increases reading comprehension by almost 20%, according to a study conducted in 2004 by  D.Y.M. Lin published in “Computers in Human Behavior”.

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