Whitespace – What It Is and Why You Need It

Whitespace - What it is and Why You Need It

If you’ve ever done any sort of design work – whether that be for work or for your own business, you’ve likely heard the term ‘whitespace’ thrown around at least a few times. But not too many people actually know what it is. This is a problem because whitespace is a really vital part of any design, and can be the dividing line between a good design and a great once. Every design NEEDS whitespace.

Whitespace - What it is and Why You Need It

Whitespace is the negative space surrounding a design – in simpler terms, it is space not taken up by your design. So, if you look at my feature images – the whitespace is all the space surrounding the letters. The thing that confuses most people is the fact that whitespace is not necessarily white. In the days of black on white printing, where newspapers and designers could only be black ink on a white page, whitespace was white. But today, with all the colours of the spectrum a printer possibility, whitespace can be any number of colours, but just remember that negative space is essentially a synonym for whitespace – so it doesn’t have to be only white.

Just like text and colour are vital elements of any design, whitespace plays an equally important role. But why is whitespace so important? The vital part is that whitespace provides relief from the design. A design with no whitespace would look awful, because the entire canvas would be covered with design elements, whether that be images or text, and there would be no space for the eye to rest in between them.

Having no whitespace would also mean that the eye doesn’t know where to focus. Having blank space in any design is vital because it tells the eye that that space is left empty for a reason, and let’s the user unconsciously continue on to look at more important elements – like an image or text.

It’s not just graphic design either – whitespace is a hugely important part of web design as well. You’ve likely encountered whitespace in your own life without knowing it. If you come upon a website or image that looks too crowded, and scanning through it makes you feel stressed and anxious, and you can’t really decide what to look at first, the real culprit is a lack of whitespace. With too much content crammed in and not enough breathing room between, our eyes jump back and forth between elements, and never rest on one. This tires us out and makes us want to leave as soon as possible.

Take a look at my home page for example. At first glance it looks nice and full, and as you scroll you can always tell exactly where you’re supposed to be looking. But, if you look closer, there really isn’t that much content there. The trick is the whitespace – it’s directing your eye, leading it around the page, letting you rest between every block, and then guiding you on to the next element that I want you to see. It’s strategic, and it does its job well. Not all the whitespace on that page is actually white – some of it is coloured, but it’s all doing the same thing. If I were to take away the padding and the margins and make all the images and text closer together and larger, you would feel a lot worse when looking at the page, and you’d probably want to leave as soon as you land on it. That’s not what I want – so whitespace is key.

If you’re unsure about whether you’re using whitespace the right way in your designs – just look at them. How do you feel? Try to notice where your eye falls first as soon as you see the image or webpage. Then notice where your eye drifts next. Does it flow to one element easily, or is it jumping around? Are you feeling anxious and confused or calm and in tune? It’s easy to spot once you train yourself, and even easier to implement! Let me know if you’d like me to take a look at your design and give you a whitespace score!

How do you use whitespace in your designs?