This is a guest post by JP Jones, who is currently the Creative Director at Kenneth Hagin Ministries in Broken Arrow, OK, USA. She is also the owner of Paige1Media, a joint venture with Collipsis Web Solutions, LLC. You can also follow her observations of the market and musings on her designer’s resource blog, www.insearchofdesign.com.

Perhaps one of the biggest debates in design history, whitespace continues to be an elusive mystery for many. From print design, web work, and advertising all the way to billboards, the question arises, “If I paid for it, shouldn’t I use it?”

Quickly, let’s define this elusive “whitespace”. Not neccessarily “white” in color, whitespace simply refers to the negative space in a design. Negative space is space that is not actively being used.

Or is it?

From the designer’s perspective, whitespace plays a vital role in good design. This element is just as important as other visual elements such as images, text and graphics. Take it out, and the design is chaos. Add it, and you achieve symmetry and balance.

From the viewers perspective, properly used whitespace allows breathing room.  A place to rest the eyes and take in the surroundings. Whitespace creates a visible path for the eye to follow. It allows all elements of a design to be seen.

From the clients perspective however, whitespace can seem like a waste of money. I mean, it’s being paid for, shouldn’t it be used? Isn’t all that whitespace wasted space? The client perspective is certainly understandable, however, marketing experts will confirm that the more chaotic a piece is, the less likely it is to generate funds. Unfortunately, by trying to fill every square inch of available space so that everything offered can be seen, the result is ensuring that nothing will be seen.  A design without adequate whitespace is a design that doesn’t allow the viewer to determine when and where elements start and stop.

Effectively, that’s what it comes down to. How profitable is whitespace?

In terms of money generating ads, let’s think about the marketing of elegant and expensive products.  Think back to the last Apple advertisement you saw, or a magazine ad for a pricey jeweler. Got it in your head? Chances are if you remember, the ad consisted of 2-4 elements simply arranged on the page.

The simple arrangement allows the real message of the ad to pop to the front.  Having always been a fan of simplicity, I still believe the best advertisements ever created were a series that volkswagen produced in the 60s. Ahead of their time, the company’s marketer,  New York ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach, introduced this understated style when they took over the company’s advertising.

The design is simple. The words are profound. The whitespace abounds.

Volkswagen Advertisement 1960

Volkswagen Advertisement 1960