Artists and writers dread looking at a blank page.
That moment just before they touch the brush to canvas, or type the first letter on the screen can seem like an eternity.
For a designer, a blank page is just white space waiting to be utilized.
If you’re not used to working with white space, it might seem unnerving to figure out how to use it.
But white space is full of delicious possibilities if you look at it the right way.
Like fresh snow, or a brand-new container of vanilla ice cream, the untouched page is full of possibilities. Where should you start making your mark? How can you turn white space into a functional element on your page?
First, the Edges
When used right, open space complements and enhances your content, whether it’s text, photos or both. The first place to add white space is around the edges of your page. This has the same effect as a matte around a piece of artwork: it frames and highlights your content.
Then, the Important Stuff
Think through what you’d like to highlight on your page. When you know what your headline is, where your subheads will appear, and what images you plan to use, use white space to emphasize these important elements.
Add space above and below a headline to draw your readers’ eyes to it. Space above (and sometimes below) subheads helps, too.
When placing images on a page, add drama by surrounding them with white space. Adding space around an image is like putting it on a pedestal: you can’t take your eyes off of it.
Watch Out for “Trapped” Space
We read from left to right, and our eyes naturally gravitate toward the upper left corner of a page or screen. This is “prime real estate,” and should be used for your most important information.
If you’re deciding where extra space should fall, it’s usually safe to add it along the bottom of the page. Avoid “trapping” space within your important content. Here are two examples:
In the first example, you can see white space is used to emphasize the content by serving as a frame for the text and images. The page looks like it will be comfortable to read: it’s spacious and not crammed with information.
Notice that there’s extra space at the ends of the columns of text. Imagine that the headline is a curtain rod, and the columns of text are “hanging” from the rod. It’s more important that the columns line up along the top. Uneven sight lines along the bottom don’t distract from the overall effect.
In the second example, the columns are lined up along the bottom. White space is “trapped” within the content. This is usually a bad idea: it distracts and has a negative effect on readability.
When space is trapped in the middle of content, it’s like an air bubble. Take the air bubble and squeeze it out of your layout: move it to the bottom or outside so that your content “sticks” together as a unit. This will help your important information to be perceived as a whole, and will enhance your readers’ experience.
Are You Afraid of the Void?
Do you find white space confusing?
Learning to use the power of white space is like learning anything else: trial and error are key, and it does get easier over time.
A good place to start experimenting with white space is to use wider borders on your pages. This will highlight your content and make it look more approachable.
Don’t delay: start using the power of white space in your marketing materials today!