When it comes to being creative, everything is subjective. However, we all know a good design when we see it developed to its full potential. What is good design? Good design means functional design – when the content in question is easy to comprehend and can be enjoyed effortlessly by the user end. We see this again and again in top-of-the-line franchise product designs. For argument’s sake, we can reference designs by Apple, Starbucks and Uber. These designs are simple, elegant, functional, and are used by millions of end-users every day. The clear common language of design shared by these companies is that the content displayed is always easy to consume. Users can order with a few taps – make decisions with a swipe, and there are clearly printed instructions for every step.
To achieve this functional design result, content creators must understand that the only way to work with their audience is to distribute information in “bite-size” formats. Information needs to be clear, and each component in the design must have purpose. Here is the catch – in order to achieve simplicity, we get what looks to be too “plain”, or too much “white space”.
Is being plain wrong? Is white space bad?
Technically, yes, being too plain is not a good idea. And yes, too much white space is bad. However, we must look at the big picture. Many times, designers are often misunderstood when there is too much white space and the resulting work is seen as bad design. In most cases, the designer is working to solve many problems and trying not to overcomplicate the design. They are trying to solve problems raised by questions such as:
- Where and when will this design be used?
- What is the product displayed next to?
- What are the designs of the neighboring products? Are they the same or different?
- Will the product stand out if it’s plain, or will it stand out with more detail?
- What is the overall messaging for the brand?
- Will viewers have a hard time understanding the design?
- How will the design solve any issues that the client has?
These questions contribute to the design process, and in many cases, simplifying a design will solve these issues by creating a great amount of contrast to its surrounding. Unfortunately for a paying client, the ultra-simple design may look sparse, leaving them with the feeling of being cheated. One argument is that if the design is so easy to recreate, why not just do it in-house, and not hire a designer. But here is the truth, designers are needed because they understand the psychology behind their design. Functional design is popular and necessary in today’s market because it works. Designers have it down to a science, and can break down these design principles faster and more effectively.
White space helps to create usable, legible, focused and modern visual experiences. Creating marketing materials and websites with white space allows the viewer to focus on the content as it draws the eye to certain aspects. Space around text allows room for the eye to maneuver and creates a more legible reading environment. When there is too much text or images crammed into space it can be hard to know what to focus on or what to read first and can make it easy to lose your place, get confused or not understand the message. Adding space allows the text to breathe, is easier on the eye and makes reading more enjoyable. For a website design, negative space creates a certain path that will navigate your reader through the web page.
So when you see a design with a lot of white space, it’s automatically good?
Absolutely not! No matter how great a designer is, they are definitely not know-it-all gurus. Always stay in close communication with your designer. Functional design requires full understanding between client and designer. Make sure that everything that you display in your product has purpose, and all content is displayed in an aesthetically pleasing way.
White space is good, but only when the design is functional