• Mark Hannafin

What’s the difference? White Space or Black Space?

To be honest, all space is the same, blue, grey, yellow; you get the picture. A better term for ‘space’ is negative space. Oh sorry! No, this isn't a blog about what's above the clouds, it is about design.

Negative space is the area of a poster, website, brochure or app that has nothing in it. No text, imagery, icons, nothing, just blank space. However, blank doesn't mean boring. Negative space is far more positive than the name suggests. Some clever designers use this space to their advantage in creating stunning visuals that make you look twice.

Each day, we are bombarded with information nearly every time we look at our phones. Between Google and social media, we more often than not see advertisements on anything from clothes, to food or a seemingly local singleton looking for love, (someone please talk to the person before they put out any more adds!) The point is, we are constantly being sold something new. So where does negative space fit in? Well, sometimes it doesn't, some websites just want to stick as much information on one page as possible, putting boxes of information everywhere. This only serves to confuse and turn people away from the website driving away potential customers.

Looking at the example in the photo above it is clear to see the designer, (or lack of) wanted to get as much info onto the page as possible and didn't really care about how it looked aesthetically. It is far too crowded and has too much text and colour making it difficult to know where to look.

This is their newest website; it is a huge improvement on the previous version. The white space is plentiful, giving the website a calmer and certainly more professional feel. The text is gone, the images are organised; it has been cut back to only the essentials.

Negative space is something people are often afraid of. They are afraid that they will leave something out and as a result try to fit as much information as possible on each page. Less is more, as the saying goes. This saying certainly applies to design. In the above image, we see that more space and less text has been used and it clearly shows how more negative space is actually positive for the design, making for a more pleasing looking website. In addition, it is essential in allowing the most important aspects of the page stand out.

Another place that negative space is often overlooked… is on business cards. How often have you seen a business card that has everything squished on one side with nothing on the other side? We need to utilise the space we are given, but not abuse the space either. The example above is rather painful to look at. The multiple fonts, image and information are overwhelming for the viewer. Focusing on space, it is evident that there is very little left!

Indeed, the front is totally overcrowded with details, but the back is likely to be blank. The image below is a complete redesign. It looks more the part than its predecessor; the space on the back has been utilised wisely. A clear design with effective use of negative space is pleasing to the eye and is far more likely to appeal to a viewer. This illustrates how space can be utilised effectively, even on something as small as a business cards

The most impressive use of this technique is when it is used in logos. A classic example of this is the FedEx logo. Everyone knows it, everyone has seen it. It would be remiss of me not to include it in this blog because it’s simple, clever and every designer wishes they had thought of it first! Another logo well known for its extremely clever use of Negative space is the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. A logo that makes you look once, then look again, it is a perfect example of how white space can look pleasing and catch the viewers’ attention if it is used correctly.

To conclude; the use of space is essential to design. A well designed book cover, poster, website, or other graphical content will catch the attention of the audience and allow the content of the product to be understood with a quick glance. Any message you wish to get across to a potential customer should be clear and concise. As a designer our job is to make visuals that are both pleasing to the eye and to the point, in order to grab the attention of the viewer and leave them with a definite understanding of what the product or service is all about.