White Space: It’s Not Nothing

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Filed under: Canright Inspirations

White Space: It’s Not Nothing

Edie Brickell, a popular songwriter in the 1980s, wrote a song about Nothing that voices what I believe most of us think and feel about Nothing. The lyrics go something like this:“There’s nothing I hate more than nothing … Hey—what’s the matter? Don’t tell me nothing.”That’s the way most people react to Nothing or open space. And in our experience, it’s the response that most people have when viewing print and electronic messages with lots of white space. It’s that dreaded White Space. And it’s nothing—it needs to be filled up, to be overcome, to be replaced with … something. Nearly anything will do, just so we don’t have … Nothing.From our earliest years, we have been conditioned to fill voids of white space—of “emptiness”— the more, the merrier. By the time we go to college, white space has become both a blessing and a curse.When writing papers, students scrambled at the last minute, typing furiously to reach the required page quota. The three-page essay was stretched into four with the addition of a few strategically placed adjectives, resulting in the last two lines of the conclusion paragraph spilling onto the fourth page. But that last page still glared white. It screamed, “Haven’t you anything left to say?” It was disconcerting, and clearly uncomfortable, to leave that much white space.But designers and other artists look at white space from a different perspective. Just as air holds weight, white space holds substance. Used correctly, white space can be as significant as the words on the page. So, in this age where more seems to be the rule, I like to find and create the spaces between and around the words and images. In fact, I think as I design, my purposeful use of white space allows the reader to more easily “grok” what is in the document. It allows my reader to take a deep breath, and take in what is presented there.-Christina