White space, or negative space, is any area of a page design that is intentionally left blank. That word “intentionally” is important to note. We're not being lazy, careless, or wasteful. White space has a purpose, too.
From a business perspective, you pay for the ad space and want to make the most of it. From a design perspective, white space is a tool, just like imagery and copy. Think about the context of a magazine ad, for example. You're flipping through a magazine. Every page is filled with columns of text and photos, all packed into a tight grid. Then you notice a page that's almost bare, and you stop. The lack of content gets your attention. That space gives you visual relief. It conveys a message of stability and precision. It's a haven from the visual over-stimulation throughout the rest of the publication.
White space might seem useless, but upon closer inspection, you'll notice it serving one of the following roles:
- Balance. White space can balance the page while giving strength to a bold image.
- Structure. Page grids are often visible through the white space. It establishes columns, margins, space around photos, and brings order to the page.
- Elegance. Intentionally leaving sections of the page empty and free conveys a sense of luxury and confidence. Yes, you're paying for that space, and yet choosing not to fill it.
- Direction. White space gives more significance to the elements on the page, acting as a tool to strengthen the focal point(s).
- Improved Legibility. Ample margins and proper spacing literally make the text easier on the eyes. Copy that is tight strains the eyes and creates reading difficulties. Pages with smaller margins can make text appear overwhelming, and make the audience less likely to read it at all.