Negative space or white space in designs need not be “negative” or “white”. Instead of being negative this space has great value in designing. And this space can be of any color. It just means that white space does not have any content or design element in it.
This space is akin to the supporting actors in a play without whom the protagonist’s or the star’s greatness cannot be manifested. Interestingly, it can be of any color. It just means that white space does not have any content or design element in it.
What is “white space” then?
White space or negative space is the space present between different elements of a design. White space improves clarity, decreases distraction, and reduces friction in a design.
Macro White Space: The space between the bigger elements of a design is known as the macro white space.
Micro White Space: The space between the smaller elements of a design is known as the micro white space. For example: the gap between letters of a word or between words, line spacing, and so on. This is definitely an example of everything white space is not.
Different Functions of White Spaces:
1. White space separates design elements
If all the design elements are bundled together, people have difficulty comprehending it. White space separates them and helps the eye and the brain to decipher them easily. Good designs that express meanings quickly utilize white space intelligently.
Here is an example that uses white space badly:
We really don’t know where to look and find it difficult to process the information provided on the card. Good use of white space can overcome such problems.
The example below uses white space to present information in an organized way.
Another illustration from the print media will further help to clarify the point. The first example has a cramped and a cluttered page that readers would find difficult to negotiate. The same content looks inviting when better use of macro and micro white space allows some rest to the eyes. Use of whitespace between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increased comprehension by almost 20%.
2. White space helps to emphasize the main design elements
If you wish to highlight a ‘painting’ on the wall, the easiest way to do so is to keep nothing around the painting that might distract the viewer’s’ attention.
Similarly, the easiest way to highlight a design element is to keep enough white space around it.
An excellent example of this is the Google page featuring the search bar. The page has very little design elements and content. The search bar is the main highlight of the page. Users immediately know the function of the page on reaching it as there is little on the page to distract him or her.
3. White space in ads make products look sophisticated
There is a common perception among people that luxury products have more white space in their advertisements. Without going into the psychology that works behind such a perception, it suffices to say that advertisers use this advantageously to position their products in ads.
4. White space leads to better UX on digital devices
Optimum white space between content blocks and design elements leads to ease of use and navigation on websites viewed on desktops. Here are some great examples of website designs using white space.
As space on mobile devices is limited, leaving white space around design elements, for example say, call to action buttons will lead to better user experience.
However, one needs to be careful about using too much white space while creating responsive web designs as that might mean scrolling lots of blank spaces on mobile devices before reaching the content.
So white space has to be used intelligently in designs keeping the devices in mind.
5. White space gives another meaning to logos
White space is often utilized innovatively in logos to provide layered meanings thereby enhancing their connotative value manifold. Given below are some examples of intelligent use of white space in logos.
Hope the above discussion has given you an idea how important white space is in design. So the next time you design something use this important tool efficiently.