White space is your friend

White space is a design term that suggests ‘negative space’ — also known as space where there is no design element.

It can work on a purely aesthetic level, but it also serves to tell the viewer where to look, what the hierarchy is and where to take breaks. It can also help an entire piece be more inviting.

A website, ad or brochure that is chock-full of colour, imagery or type can be difficult to look at and read, let alone understand. Think of it this way: if someone throws a single tennis ball at you, you might catch it; if someone throws ten, chances are you won’t catch anything. Sometimes I wonder if people think that if there is too much white space, they’re not getting their money’s worth. Every piece of available space should be filled, right?


Do not be afraid of white space.

It serves a valuable purpose.

And while I’m at it, here are responses to seven other design misconceptions that can regularly trip up clients, hurt the collaboration and weaken the final product.

  1. Your logo doesn’t have to be big to be seen.
  2. Red is not the only colour that stands out. Colour choices communicate emotions and depend on everything else around them.
  3. We can’t ‘just sharpen’ low-resolution images in Photoshop.
  4. We also can’t ‘just change the font’. At least not without going back to the drawing board. Typeface choice and how it’s used affect everything else.
  5. If it looks small on your screen, you’re probably not seeing it at the intended size.
  6. Just because we can use all the colours in the world doesn’t mean we should.
  7. Yes, we really do need the ‘copy’ (words) to start designing. It can be rough copy, but meaning affects design decisions.
Bonnie Siegler is the USA-based Founder and Creative Director of multi-disciplinary design studio, Eight and a Half, with recent clients including The New Yorker, HBO and Random House. Bonnie is the author of two books: Signs of Resistance, A Visual History of Protest in America and Dear Client. 8point5.com

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