Archive | September, 2010

Via Idea #13: The Positives of Negative Space (understanding white space)

3 Sep

Have you ever noticed that some layouts draw you in and present information in an easy-to-follow design while others are such a mishmash of colors, copy and graphic elements that you don’t know what to look at first?

If you compare an example of each, you’ll likely find the better layout makes effective use of white space. White space, which is not always white and is also known as negative space, is the open space between elements on the page. Your brain notices white space. Expert graphic designers understand that the absence of content draws you to the content and use this knowledge to direct your eye.

Graphic artists use this tool to control where you look first, second and third. Good design composition gives the reader a sense of order and instructions on where to look. Ineffective layouts are disorganized and lack focus. A page crammed full of text or graphics with very little white space almost always appears busy, cluttered and is typically difficult to read. Websites, by the way, are particularly hard on the eyes; white space allows your eyes to take breaks while scanning pages.

White space also improves comprehension. A Nielsen eye-tracking study found that more white space increases comprehension and reduces the time required to move through a page. Used correctly, white space will enhance the performance of printed and online marketing materials. It improves readability and makes a great first impression.

White space, when used generously, creates a sense of elegance. Ads selling high price-point items typically use a lot of white space. Think about upscale ads for jewelry, cosmetics or imported sports cars.

Now you know a design secret. White space is much more than background—it provides our brains with a resting point and time to absorb the material being presented. Negative space is really positive space.

White Trivia
The color white often symbolizes safety, cleanliness and purity. White suggests innocence, perfection and youth. Angels are usually portrayed as white. White represents simplicity and freshness. Doctors, hospitals and sterility are associated with white. Low-fat foods and dairy products are often packaged in white. But ghosts are white and giving white flowers to the sick is bad luck in many cultures. In many Eastern cultures, white signifies unhappiness, death, funerals, and mourning.

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