White space: Dispelling the Myth

White Space

White space: Dispelling the Myth

White or negative space is often a bone of contention with design agency clients because they think that they are paying for “unused” space, especially on a website. Or they can cram more content into that “empty” space. But imagine working at a desk piled high and layered with files and scraps of paper. How do you find a file in 6 seconds? The same principle applies to users visiting a website which is crammed. White or negative space is not empty space – the graphic designer applies white space as an essential aid to your business.  If your design agency is not using white space, surprise them and ask for it.

1. What is white space?
Creating white space in design removes clutter and distraction from your website, brochure, presentation pitch or advert. White space (or negative space as it does not need to be the colour white) is the unmarked space in design – the space between paragraphs and layouts. It is essentially a design composition.

2. Content is king but…
We live in a time where content is king. What tends to happen is that we include every bit of information that we can think of into marketing collateral and create a heavy cognitive load for users. The trick is not to focus content on what you know but rather concentrate on what your audience needs to know in order to connect with you. A brand strategist can help you with this.

It follows that content quantity and white space go hand in hand.

3. White space is essential.
The use of white space is an integral part of a graphic designers tools. Firstly, white space is aesthetically appealing. White space also greatly enhances UX and UI, key triggers affecting user experience. To use the analogy mentioned earlier, it is far easier to find a file on a tidy desk than on a cluttered desk.

Here are some of the reasons why graphic designers make use of white space, often liberally:

Irrespective of the medium, white space can significantly increase comprehension. You have mere seconds for a user to figure out why they should call you. Today, design has taken on a new meaning. It is now beyond “creative”. A qualified UXD (User Experience Designer) instructs the graphic designer on how to achieve this.

White space can draw attention to where you need the user’s eyes to be – it is not a whim of the graphic designer or for aesthetic purposes only. Often, macro white spaces (or larger spaces) will be used to focus attention.

It follows that the quicker and easier the user finds what they are looking for, the sooner they will engage with you. If your content is cluttered, excessive and difficult to absorb, the chances are good that the visitor will bounce out of your website before they stumble across your call to action. To put things into perspective, internet users have an average attention span of 6 seconds. The graphic designer and UXD (user experience designer) plan design and layout around the fragile attention span of website users.

With so much undisciplined content around, proximity of content can easily cause themes or points to appear the same for users. This can cause them to miss important information, another reason why good design agencies use white space.

If you look at great websites such as Apple where their graphic design agency knows a thing or two, you’ll get a sense of class which makes it on-brand. Apart from the brand tone, users need to associate you with traits such as ‘organised, systematic, credible’ otherwise it is difficult to take you seriously, let alone buy from you.

You really don’t want the user’s eyes bouncing around the website or becoming fatigued. You want the eyes to be fresh, alert and focused. White space gives eyes a breather, even in those short 6 seconds before they become distracted and worn out.

3. Myth dispelled?
The job of a design agency and its graphic designers is to create an easy line between the user and the marketing platform. For a designer, it is far more difficult and time consuming to create work – be that a website, brochure or sales pitch presentation etc – which is user friendly and achieves the objectives of communication pieces than it is to be “creative” and dump content which will never work.

In fact, yes, clients are paying for white or negative (empty) space but in truth, they are investing in space which significantly improves their chances of converting interest to action.


Claire Yates
Creative Director
Sherpa Brand & Design

Sherpa Brand & Design Agency
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