Sometimes, what you don't see is just as important as what you DO see in your printing projects. White space -- also known as negative space -- is what design professionals call the open space between the different elements of your project like text, headlines, and images.
White space is everywhere, but you may not consciously notice it. You (and your readers) aren't supposed to notice the white space! Every letter, every word, every paragraph is full of white space -- otherwise, how would readers differentiate between the letters and the background? White space lets the reader's eye make sense of the relationships between visual items, and actually helps the viewer move from one element to another.
Look at the last paragraph, for example. Each letter has white space around it. Each group of letters is set off by white space so you can recognize it as a word. At the end of the paragraph, the white space leads your eye to move on to the next paragraph automatically.
White space makes your design visually appealing -- too much "noise" crowding the page makes your printed project hard to read. Without white space, the reader's eyes get tired too quickly and your message gets lost. Negative space is especially important on web pages, because on-screen reading places more of a strain on the eyes than on-page reading.
Tips and tricks to keep in mind when dealing with white space:
* White space isn't just a background -- it is a critical part of your design.
* An uncluttered layout that makes good use of positive and negative space is far more appealing and comprehensible to the reader.
* Think about an asymmetrical layout -- text to one side and graphics to the other for a striking design that draws the reader's eye.
* Keep your line lengths manageable. Try laying out your text in columns that are an alphabet and a half (26 + 13 = 39) characters wide.
* Check for rivers in your text. What's a river? It is white space between words that connects and snakes up and down your page. Try this test: turn your text box upside down and skim it with your eyes. You won't stop to see words, but the rivers will quickly become apparent.
* Avoid justified text -- your text editing program may create odd gaps between words in order to make unified margins on both sides. Try left or right aligned text with a ragged edge on the opposite side to reduce rivers.
* White space doesn't have to be white! White (or negative) space is any area that is empty -- no text or images at all.
* A single line or phrase surrounded by white space can have a HUGE impact -- think about full-page magazine or newspaper ads that are nothing but a line or two on a blank page. You can't help but stop and read it because all that white space makes the message stand out. It's irresistible!
Don't feel obligated to fill every inch of space with bigger headlines, larger text, and more graphics. Since our earliest days in school, we've been taught to leave white space -- didn't your teacher have you draw margins, or leave space at the bottom and top of each page? Embrace negative space in your printing projects.
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(C) 2010 David Ji - Advance Printing & Signs