Designing effectively in Graphic Design means paying attention not only to what is there but also what is not there. White space in design is not, literally, space on a white background.
It refers to the absence of objects – the blank space between other elements like text, photos and graphics. If the design is on a white page, then, yes, it will appear that white space is the part of the page between the elements that is white. If the page is a solid color other than white, the term is still “white space”.
The impact of white space can be huge – much like the pause in a sentence that is formed by a comma. It’s a way for the viewer to visually linger and gives one the chance to focus on and digest the important components in printed material.
Trying to cover all spaces in a printed piece can be as disarming like a traffic jam. Wall to wall cars is certainly an unattractive view. It’s hard to focus on anything in particular in rush hour when everything is congested. But, take away most of the cars and what’s left can bring things into clearer focus.
When your eyes don’t know where to focus, as in the case of cluttered content, your message won’t be effective. Most people don’t want to sift through mounds of content to get to the meat of the message. If your message isn’t getting read, it isn’t getting heard.
One great example of the successful use of white space in design is the “got milk” campaign. The first “got milk” ad was in 1993 yet it still resonates today, nearly 30 years later. It has been studied, lampooned, copied and still it is effective. Compare that to ads and other printed pieces that are so filled with text and graphics that you can’t visualize what is being sold or promoted. The most successful marketing breathes. The “got milk” campaign was clever and concise. Large photos of celebrities with a milk mustache, the tag line and a short paragraph about how the featured celeb felt about milk. That’s it. No hard sales pitch, no huge blocks of text. Simply simple.
Check out the marketing pieces you see day to day and use them to determine what draws your attention. While chaotic collateral may make you stop and look because it may be colorful, do you retain what’s being sold? White space balances the design which allows for better communication. Better communication leads to better effectiveness. There’s an art to knowing when and how to use white space. Ask how white space can help your print material convey your message more successfully.