White Space

Easily one of the most misunderstood aspects of layout design is white (or negative) space. The term refers to the parts of a composition left unmarked by text and graphics — including margins, gutters and space between lines of type.

Blog article by James Newcombe. Originally posted 04 February 2010.

When used effectively, space can aid the hierarchy of information, push out elements, and simply give the eyes a break. White space needn’t actually be white, it can be any colour, as long as we subconsciously see it as the background.

white space in editorial design

The beautifully designed French newspaper Libération bucks the trend in its field with great use of space

A common misconception of space on a page is that of emptiness needing to filled with something. Anything. Filling in gaps is not the role of a designer — using that space in an effective manner is.

white space in editorial design

This style filters down to Libération’s sub publications as well

Space in newspapers is expensive — complex grids are employed to get as much data in the layouts as possible, while readability is maintained by clever use of columns, margins and gutters within this grid.

effective advertising design

Effective newspaper advertising

Because of the cost, it must be extremely tempting for newspaper advertisers to cram as much as they can in their allotted space. The savvy client will note that as the newspaper itself is content heavy, space is a novelty in the publication, and a sudden appearance of this element will immediately draw the eye.

A page full of information and with little white space, can appear overly busy and tiring for the reader to absorb — this kind of cluttered design actually risks alienating a certain type of audience with their first glance.

apple watch ad using white space

This double page advertisement for Apple Watch is a good example of upmarket design values — clean, minimal, and sophisticated coupled with powerful high–quality photography.

Discerning use of white space can imply elegance and exclusivity. For example, take a look at the advertising of upmarket brands — notice the minimal use of text, and abundance of space. A spacious layout communicates absolute confidence in the product or service that is being sold.