The Use of Space in Design

The Use of Space in Design

What does it take to create an elegant, high-end design? In many cases, much of the elegance that communicators seek when they are creating a magazine layout is more about what isn’t there.

Let’s face it, paper and mailing can be expensive, and there is a desire to make the most of the investment by filling every possible space of a publication. But sometimes, these instincts can run contrary to goals. It’s understandable when a page or medium has white space left over, it can generate feelings of lost opportunity in not getting all possible messages across. It may feel as though the subject was not done justice if as much content as possible was not incorporated. But in most cases, this leads to an overwhelming interaction between the viewer and the content. You lose the viewer’s interest and, in turn, they receive no information at all.

“Typically, if a page is loaded with text, icons, and photos, eyes have a hard time finding what is most important and where to start. This creates chaos,” said Anthony Stiso, art director at Onward Publishing. “So by giving content space, it creates harmony between all the elements, making for a more visually appealing experience and a better chance that the content will be absorbed by the viewer.”

Keep these three points in mind to keep things clear:

  1. One Idea Per Page. Yes, people want an engaging narrative, but think of each page of a publication, or each minute of video, as getting across one idea.
  2. Space Helps. It gives authority, makes it more pleasing to read, and allows us to guide the reader — and keep their attention for a compelling narrative so that they can ultimately take action.
  3. More Pages. Look at your favorite magazines. You may notice large photos, a full page of display type, or pages given solely to a compelling graphic or chart.

Empty space is a part of the medium that has no text or design image. It utilizes space hierarchy to bring attention to or emphasize important details and create a design flow. In some cases, an image may be considered space if it takes up the entire background of a spread. Space allows for important information to be easily absorbed and understood by readers, making a design more welcoming. When space is asymmetrically balanced, it becomes active and dynamic, conveying calmness, cleanliness, and quality.

The rule of thirds helps with space, too. While loose in terms of “rules”, the idea is to define areas of space on a page and aide in design flow. The rule of thirds grid lines highlight the places where eyes like to rest on a page naturally and how eyes move through a composition. Allowing a designer to use space puts photos and text in harmony and improves text legibility. Designers also use space to separate or group elements in a layout: larger spaces separate elements from one another, while smaller spaces help connect elements to reveal relationships between them.

So, whether designing a layout for a magazine, webpage, or other print or digital works, don’t be offended if you’re told, “I think we need some space.”