White space leaves room for the imagination. Photo: Tom Raftery

White Space in Graphic Design, and Why It’s Important

Theory

White Space in Graphic Design, and Why It’s Important

When was the last time you seriously considered the role of nothingness in your life? We usually focus on the concrete thing – however, a strong design requires a careful focus on what is and what is not. White space (sometimes pronounced “whitespace”) is integrated because it tells our brain which elements are most important in design — it enables these elements to process themselves and as part of the overall picture.

What is white space?

White space represents the remaining canvas space between different elements of your design. You may have also heard it referred to as negative space. This is important because it keeps your design very noisy or confusing. There are two main types of white space in graphic design:
Active White Space – This is where you make a conscious effort to add emphasis and structure to your design. The active white space is often asymmetrical, which makes the design very dynamic and active.
Passive white space – This is a naturally occurring white space, the area between words in a line or around a logo or graphic element.
When dealing with white space, you often worry about active white space — however, you still need to pay more attention to how it works with your passive white space and your overall design.

 

white space
white space

Whitespace size: micro vs. macro

Micro white space is a term used to describe small elements of white space in a particular design. It can be between letters and words or between two graphic elements next to each other. Add micro white space whenever your design needs a little more breathing room, but you don’t have enough canvas to work with. Adjusting the size of the space between your smallest elements will help them be more noticeable and improve your design so that it does not seem cluttered.
At the other end of the spectrum, macro white space is the term given to large white spaces. These are the negative spatial elements between columns, columns or graphic elements. If you look to the left and right of this column, you can see the macro white space active when separating different elements of the webpage. Changing these areas can drastically change the look of your design and give you different options for creating design flow and rhythm.

 

It’s not always white

The word “white space” is actually a misnomer because it means the place must be white. White space can be any color that indicates a negative spot in your design. For example, the presentation folder can use a bright shade of yellow instead of white to bring energy and color to the design. The white space can be repetitive (like a subtle texture) and even visually appealing. It’s more interesting to see the color space than white, but the principles are still the same – this is an area you don’t want to focus on.

The importance of space

Negative space plays many important roles in making your design attractive and useful.
Divides elements into groups
White space provides the brain with visual clues as to which graphic design elements are together and which are unique. At the bottom of the business card, you can say that you have serial numbers for your business, mobile, and home phones. The micro-white space between different lines of numbers sends a signal to your brain that each is part of a new and different sequence instead of a long number. Space is used to separate each individual from the other so that they are clear and easy to understand.
On the other hand, adding macro white space between different groups of phone numbers allows your brain to process each group into a separate entity, making it easier to organize large-scale design elements simultaneously. Using the same example, you can set aside the left side of your design space for work numbers and the right side for house numbers. Adding macro white space between these two groups makes it easier for recipients to tell the difference between the two, even if they have similar visual elements.

Refers to luxury and sophistication Elegant white space
You can use white space as a design element to make your marketing products look sophisticated.
White space can actually become a central element in a design when used to create a particular mood or look. We associate a large amount of white space with luxury and sophistication, so using it effectively can be a way to bring these associations into your design.
Consider eating at a five-star restaurant as opposed to a cheap family restaurant. In a fancy restaurant, the food is neatly arranged on a plate with lots of white space, while the family restaurant has all the dishes piled on one plate and nothing else. The same idea goes for your design – many graphic elements make the overall look affordable. Rather than trying to improve the design by adding more and more imagination, let the white space do its job so that the graphic elements can focus on seeing their appearance.
Adds importance

What happens when you separate a design element using white space?
As you can see from the text above, our brain attaches importance and significance to the design elements surrounded by white space. This is because negative space gives you visual clues about where you want to be, and provides plenty of buffer space around an organ so your brain can process faster.
This is why important design elements such as logos are often surrounded by white space so that they are emphasized and clearly visible. Space helps to keep your logo separate from other elements so that the visitor is attracted to your business and does not confuse it with other images. Refers to luxury and sophistication
Elegant white space

You can use white space as a design element to make your marketing products look sophisticated.
White space can actually become a central element in a design when used to create a particular mood or look. We associate a large amount of white space with luxury and sophistication, so using it effectively can be a way to bring these associations into your design.
Consider eating at a five-star restaurant as opposed to a cheap family restaurant. In a fancy restaurant, the food is neatly arranged on a plate with lots of white space, while the family restaurant has all the dishes piled on one plate and nothing else. The same idea goes for your design – many graphic elements make the overall look affordable. Rather than trying to improve the design by adding more and more imagination, let the white space do its job so that the graphic elements can focus on seeing their appearance.
Adds importance

What happens when you separate a design element using white space?
As you can see from the text above, our brain attaches importance and significance to the design elements surrounded by white space. This is because negative space gives you visual clues about where you want to be, and provides plenty of buffer space around an organ so your brain can process faster.
This is why important design elements such as logos are often surrounded by white space so that they are emphasized and clearly visible. Space helps to keep your logo separate from other elements so that the visitor is attracted to your business and does not confuse it with other images.

White space can be used as a design element to make your marketing materials look sophisticated.
White space can be used as a design element to make your marketing materials look sophisticated.

Stimulates the imagination
When we see white space in a design, it allows our imagination to spin freely, resulting in a strong emotional response. Our brains have an innate need to figure things out, which creates a kind of story between what you see and how you process it.
In the example on the right, a woman is showing a bonsai tree in complete emptiness. However, we know she can’t really float in a vacuum, so our brains make up a story to tell what’s going on. You can imagine her working in the back of a greenhouse or cutting her bonsai in a white wall office on a sunny day. Your brain may have imagined her as a model for a picture standing in front of a white spine.

You don’t really need to imprint your mind on that white spot; What’s important is that thinking about it engages your mind. If you are involved, you have a personal investment in design. Having a personal investment in design is more likely to create a good first look.
Creates a negative space image

You can also create an image using the negative space between the graphic elements. It’s a creative way to add a symbol to a logo in a subtle, almost “excellent” way; The image is not immediately apparent, but the audience should pay extra attention to your design.
Below is an example logo for a landscaping company, featuring a hidden shovel design created by the unique shape of the white space “U” in the word “duck”. Images blend in with the nature of the business and provide a subtle graphic element to the design. If the shovel was a picture or clip art, it would completely change the minimalist aesthetic of this logo.

White space leaves room for the imagination. Photo: Tom Raftery
White space leaves room for the imagination. Photo: Tom Raftery

Conclusion
No matter what you do, do not fall into the trap of thinking that white space is “empty space”. It may seem empty, but it’s because you designed the space for the audience to see your design better, not because you have nothing better there. When it comes to graphic design, the elements you create are just as important as the elements you create.

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