White Space and the Dangers of Overdesigning

In the design world, white space is a commonly used term and is heavily considered by designers when making design decisions. But to the people outside of that sphere, it may prove to be difficult to understand and implement. White space is a powerful tool and can mark the difference between a professional design and an armature one.

What exactly is white space?

White space has a simple definition; it is the “blank” space between the design elements on the page. It is where the viewer’s eye can rest, making processing information easier. A design with well executed white space improves legibility, highlights key information, and allows the viewer to be able to focus on the content.

Why is it important?

For content creators with no design training, there is a tendency to remove white space in order to fit in more content. A great example of this tendency is the Harbor Freight monthly coupon pages:

As you can see above, the designer of this coupon page was able to fit in an impressive amount of content on this page but is the viewer able to process all of this content without feeling overwhelmed and possibly give up midway through? Most likely not. As you look at this page, you are not sure where to start looking, its hard to focus, and your eyes tend to dart around the page. Now imagine this is how your audience feels when viewing the content you have created.

Now lets look an example of well executed white space:

Apple does a great job of using white space in all their designs (website, packaging, ads, etc.). While the content is going to take more space to communicate, the reader is able to process the information at a much better pace and remember the key elements Apple is presenting to them.

To summarize, white space is a crucial component of communicating content. A design that executes white space well can make a big difference in how well the viewer processes the content that you have provided them. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a minimalist architect, had a great aphorism that summarizes the importance of this, "Less is more". In order to effectively communicate to your audience and stand out from, design less to communicate more.

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