When you see a business card, an ad in the newspaper, or a website that appeals to you, have you ever considered why it is so? Is it because of the design or the lack of it? Is it because of the balance that has been beautifully struck between the elements of design and the space around them? That is what negative space in design does. It strikes a balance between all the subjects used in a particular design so that the design is not overwhelming but eye-catching and appealing.
In any piece of art, you are bound by the frame of the space you are designing, within which you use positive and negative spaces. The positive elements comprise the subjects of design, while the negative space is the blank space around the design. Negative space is also often known as white space.
The Use and Importance of Negative Space in Design
Negative space is so called because it is the exact opposite of a balanced image, which may include a subject such as an illustration with a person and text, and a variety of other shapes. All the space around and among these items is negative space. It is against this space that a positive space can show itself and have an impact on the viewer. Using negative space while maintaining a balance is a challenge for a graphic designer or even a photographer, and knowing how much of this space is enough is important for such creative professionals. How does having this space in a design help? Let's find out.
Is a Symbol of Extravagance
Studies show that the use of negative space in a design gives an appearance of extravagance and sophistication. When you see a high-end moisturizer placed against a white or light background with only its container being the colored element, don't you want to just pick it up and use it? Doesn't it give you a sense of luxury and try to tell you that only a selected few can afford it and use it? This is how powerful negative space is.
Creates Free Flow
It also allows the viewer to view a design clearly. As it allows the design to stand out, a viewer is not obstructed by a multitude of elements to distract him, and the real object of focus remains the real object of focus. This makes a difference to the way a design is perceived and is largely appreciated by the consumer resulting in an eventual positive response.
Allows a Reader to Read
In the context of web design, negative space does a great deal by allowing the reader to read the content on the website clearly. This is an aspect similar to that mentioned of free flow above. Increasing the amount of white space between lines of text tends to enhance a reader's ability to read the page clearly. Expect people to come back for more, if along with the design there is also great content for the reader.
Separates Other Elements of Design
All designs do not have just one object or element of focus. Some have more, and the use of white space allows the viewer to discriminate between these subjects while still maintaining a flow in design. It creates a connection between these subjects and at the same time separates them from each other for clear understanding. Such use of white space is the true mark of a great design.
In essence, negative space is as important as the actual subject of design - be it on a photograph, a flyer, a print ad, or a website. It provides relief to the viewer of the design and comes like a breath of fresh air. Cluttered designs are over and done with, and though some people still think white space or negative space is a waste of space, there is no denying the fact that without it no design will be as appealing as it could have been.
It is likely that in the process of experimentation with white space you may end up using it in excess and losing the kind of effect you were trying to create. As you gain experience in design you will understand in what way it is most effective.