All of us have felt the attractive allure of the demon known as ‘white space’. We see a poster in a perfect 100% cyan square in a corner with a 6pt font title underneath and think “I can do that!” to ourselves.
Inevitably, this is where the dream ends.
Have you ever seen a website that makes you want to cover your eyes and hide? A website with a tiny image repeated in the background, rainbow-gradient comic-sans text headers, and a sparkle-pointer instead of your old buddy, the arrow? Have you ever actually found anything? Chances are you never did. Chances are you hit the back button so fast that your mouse nearly set the pad on fire.
So yes. White space good, clutter bad. You may be asking “What can make my rainbow-explosion website like their white space-y heaven?” Well, here are some tips and principles.
Line-Height: Make your skimmer a dedicated reader! Long paragraphs are discouraging to viewers. Increasing the space between lines tricks your reader into thinking your article is a lighter read than it is.
Proximity: Your elements love each other, but not as much as you think. A little room around the elements of your composition gives them room to breathe and lets the visitor’s eye focus on a single element at a time.
Minimalism: Simplicity and white space go hand-in-hand. A work with fewer elements is less daunting. Although it’s impossible to always pear away elements, it should always be priority to pear away or meld elements that don’t belong or can’t stand alone.
One example of effectively used white space is the WWF (Wildlife Foundation. We’re not talking wrestling here, people) panda. This panda is only partly formed, but our mind fills in the blanks. The panda’s design is an example of a Gestalt Principle. These principles describe the different ways white space is used. Essentially, the logo is making you do all the work.
CNN.com is a good example of an enormous amount of information being well-handled. Without the effective use of white space the website would be a mess of links, images and videos. It would be impossible to navigate or understand.
I both love and despise white space. I love it when it goes well, and want to cry when it goes terribly wrong. It looks simple, so people think it is simple. But white space is a tricky thing. Effective use of white space can result in clarity to a once over-burdened website, a simple, easy-to-spot poster standing out on a cluttered street, or a clever logo only partly revealed, but fully realized in the mind. Ineffective use can result in a work that feels sloppy and gives the impression that no work was put into the piece at all. To some designers it’s an art form, to others it’s merely a means to an end. To most it is a necessity.
Well, to the good ones anyway.