Negative Space in Design: Tips and Insights

Graphics design is full of interesting concepts and techniques. One of these is negative space which is used in many popular visual products. For instance, we see negative space in logo design in logos like FedEx and WWF, and also in websites, social media content, digital ads, etc. However, if you want to experiment with the technique yourself, then you need to know the right way to incorporate it into your designs. You will learn all about it in this post, but before that, we need to address an important question which is:

Why is Negative Space Important?

Negative space is often considered a key building block of good design. When designers talk about it, then they talk about the space between different elements in a composition. It’s the portion of a page that’s left unmarked including the margins and space between graphics, or a logo that uses empty space for creating a unique effect. When used correctly, the technique can transform an asset completely and make content appealing and easy on the eyes.

The following are some of the top tips on how you can leverage the art of negative space effectively:

Focus on Select Elements

When a designer creates a web page or cover page of an eBook, then they usually want to highlight a particular element(s) in the design. It could be a call to action button or the content section. There are various ways to go about it, one of which is using negative space. The key is picking the most optimum amount of negative space for the object. If you don’t know how you can do that, then you can start by simply removing all the elements around the key object. Doing this will accentuate the existing elements and the attention of the users will go to the area with an object just because there is nothing else to look at. In fact, the more negative space is there around the object, the more a user shall focus on the key object.

Improve Readability

Content plays a huge role in marketing and branding, but it’s also important in graphics design. For instance, factors like font size, color contrast, font weight, etc. can have a huge impact on readability. Other than these, negative space can influence readability to a huge extent as well. For instance, you can adjust the line spacing (the spacing between each line in a paragraph) you can improve the readability of the content. Generally, when the spacing is too tight, then it can make it difficult for the readers to decipher the text. In fact, experts believe that proper spacing between paragraphs and lines can improve readability by as much as 20%.

Know Your Gestalt Psychology

Having a basic understanding of Gestalt psychology can help you create great designs that use negative space. Here is what it means- we, human beings, have a tendency to seek order in things. In other words, when we see an image then we first look at it as a whole product, and after that, we take into account the individual elements. So, if you can understand how people are likely to see your design initially as one product, you can try to use negative space in a way that makes sense for the smaller elements to come together to make the desired impact. 

Alleviate the Design by Creating a Grand Impact

So far, we discussed ways of how negative space can be used to improve usability and address main purposes. However, the technique can also be used to create a feeling of luxury. In fact, popular brands often use negative space to make their products look sophisticated and classy as they put the products in a spotlight and increase their appeal.

Bottom Line

What makes skilled graphics designers different from inexperienced professionals is their attention to detail and the ability to see beauty in something that others usually overlook. This is exactly how they incorporate negative space in their designs and you can learn from them too. Of course, the information above can also be of huge help. Good luck!

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About the author

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Houke de Kwant is a 29 year old frontend developer from the Netherlands and the creator of TheArtHunters (former Daily Inspiration, which was started as part of his study). He is currently working as a front-end developer at Ivaldi, an internet agency in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

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