White space in design: What it is and the 5 best practices on using it in your designs
Sometimes, to be effective and readable, your designs need some room to breathe — that is, to have lots of white space, or negative space.
Sure enough, it can be tempting to put all the information you want your audience to see on your visual. That includes lots of buttons, call-to-actions, objects, photos, texts, a wide variety of fonts… But mind this: for your audience to process content, you need to be smart about how you assemble it.
This article, along with our piece on visual hierarchy in design, shares simple but helpful insights on the graphic design basics every non-designer should know. If you’re just starting with your designs, you need to know how to use white space to make sure your designs are balanced. Keep reading for tips and tricks on all things white space.
You can always refer to VistaCreate’s templates that feature and use lots of negative space. They’re perfect examples of ready-made visuals that will guide you through outstanding design. Simply choose one, and customize it for your projects.
If you’ve ever struggled with creating designs from scratch, read on to find out what whitespace is and the best practices on using it in design.
What is white space in design?
White space is essentially a component of your design that is not busy with elements such as photos, texts, buttons, or icons. Despite the name, white space isn’t necessarily white.
For example, there’s plenty of white space around this article. There are sentences that are the core content of the article, and white space on the right and left provides you with some room to focus on the words.
In graphic design, white space can be a solid color. Sometimes, it’s a pattern. Or even a background image — anything that improves content readability, adds emphasis, and gives the user a place to rest their eyes.
The four types of white space in design
Now, what are the key types of white space and how do you use them?
Micro white space
The name speaks for itself — micro white space represents small white spaces between different elements of your design like buttons. Micro white space in text affects the user’s reading speed.
Macro white space
Macro white space is bigger. It encompasses the large space between major layout elements, such as photos, content blocks, columns, and more. Macro white space adds to the efficiency of the overall design.
There are two more types of white space you want to use — active white space and passive white space.
Active white space
Sometimes, you include white space intentionally to ensure proper structure. This is predominantly active white space, evident within the general design layout.
Passive white space
Passive white space, on the contrary, just occurs naturally. It’s the spacing between letters and sentences, the natural empty space surrounding a logo or menu links, and the space between other design elements.
To get a better feel of great white space usage, you need to understand what it’s not. Here are some examples where white space is lacking or used inappropriately (but remember, lack of white space isn’t always a bad thing; sometimes it’s a stylistic choice of the designer which we personally love in the following visuals):
Why is it essential to use white space in your designs?
Never overlook the importance of white space in your design because it can make or break it. But what exactly does the negative space add to your design projects? Here are the key 5 advantages of using the white space in design.
1. White space improves readability
Now, ask yourself, is it easier to read text with single or double line spacing? Most likely, you’ll put conscious effort into reading a text that is poorly spaced, and will easily read content with good spacing. White space does improve readability, guiding the audience and letting them focus on the hierarchy in your design as you intend it.
Be sure to include plenty of micro and marco white spaces into your design project for improved understanding.
Here is a visual that is quite hard to read due to a lack of white space:
And the one that is pretty easy to grasp:
2. White space directs user attention
Where to look first? With the proper use of negative space, that shouldn’t be a question for your audience. White space plays the role of a navigator in your design. With white space, a user easily grasps the essential parts of a design, while disregarding what’s secondary.
One rule applies here: the more negative space there is around a design element, the more important it is.
3. White space adds to content usability
Your design almost always comes with call-to-actions. White space is important here, as it helps to improve content usability. As you include more negative space in your design, it’s easy to distinguish that one element is the most important.
If your design is an infographics, a list, or a scheme, white space will allow you to create a visual that is well-perceived by the user, with all focal points easily grasped.
4. White space improves design efficiency
The purpose of a good design is to transmit your message to your audience in a way that is simple, seamless, and natural. White space, for that matter, has a direct impact on your design efficiency. As you include negative space in your design, you create a visual hierarchy that puts your key elements on a pedestal.
White space is one of the easiest, yet most essential visual methods to accentuate your design elements.
5. White space allows your designs to ‘breathe’
Cognitive load plays a huge role in consuming designs — but you don’t want users to notice that. The key purpose of the white space is to give your user a place to rest the eye. With white space used properly, your user gets to see the big picture — and focuses on what’s core in your design.
Think of a white space as that extra, necessary element in design that helps you avoid cluttering and overwhelming your audience – just as we have space to move around our homes (although sometimes cluttered, we need some extra room!)
5 best practices for using white space in design
Of course, using white space might be a bit complicated if you’re just starting on a new design. But we’ve got you covered: you can rely on ready-made templates that already use this principle. Below are some templates from the VistaCreate library that make great use of white space.
1. Background image as white space
As we mentioned above, your background image can represent white space as long as you accentuate your key elements and the photo is not too cluttered with elements. You can add your own photo as a background image, or use one from free photostocks. Here’s one of VistaCreate’s templates, where you can see that the background image itself has some white space, making it ideal to place text elements on:
Did you know you can remove backgrounds with VistaCreate in seconds? Next time you have a visual that you want to remove a background from, simply add it to your artboard, click the “Remove background” icon, and voila — you now have your visual without a background!
Please note that this feature is available for VistaCreate Pro users.
2. Micro white space in design
Notice the spacing between the letters in this template? That’s a great example of micro white space, which also comes as passive white space that occurs naturally.
3. Macro white space in design
This one is all about macro white space. Note how the design elements are spread across the image evenly, creating proper contrast between photos and text.
4. Pattern as white space
Another option is to use patterns. In this visual, pattern represents a great white space option that helps the viewer distinguish key elements — the photo and text.
5. Color as white space
Sometimes, you can just use color as your white space. This template uses red as a background, while accentuating the call to action.
We hope we’ve shined a light on what white space is and how you can use it in your designs. Now, let’s recap some key takeaways:
- White space is any part of your design that is not busy with design elements — logos, texts, icons, or more.
- White space can be anything, from a background image to a color or a pattern.
- There are micro and macro white spaces, as well as active white space that you create intentionally, and passive white space that just occurs naturally.
- Using white space in design improves content readability, adds to the efficiency of your design, and leaves space to rest the eyes.
Ready to put these principles into action? Head over to VistaCreate to design your next outstanding piece!