By Peter Vickers
  1. Home
  2. Insights
  3. Article

The Importance of Nothing

The importance of white space within design.

I’ve had a thought. As random and wonderful as they may sometimes be – this one feels quite interesting – and it’s around language and communication, the importance of white space.

If words are just constructed sound with associated meaning, then the pauses and breaks are as vital to understanding language, that is communicating, as the actual noise is.

If this is true, then the nothing gives context to the something; the space gives definition to the substance.

As designers we create things – we fill pages, posters, websites with ‘stuff’. Type, colour, illustration and image all feature heavily in what we construct and create. Yet, if we apply the above principle to the way we work as designers, then the ‘nothing’ or ‘the blank space’ becomes a tool which carries just as much importance as all the other visualised elements… if not more.

The importance of white space within design.

This may seem an obvious point in principle but it can be hard to appreciate the importance of white space – especially when you’re working within constraints – where white space has to fight its corner against the type, a photo, just a little bit more information.

Space allows a message to sink in; it draws the eye and guides the viewer. Space can be used to make an impact, a statement, to shout or whisper – to inform or leave hanging. Just as typeface communicates tone; colour evokes emotion, and layout bring sense and order – space is a vital tool.

We’ve all watched great public speakers who know when to pause at exactly the right points and for exactly the right times to maximise effect. Well space between words and sentences has a very similar effect when used in a visual context. It explains, gives meaning and allows a message to sink in and resonate. It turns out that nothing is very important indeed – I’d go as far as to say, nothing equals everything!


Image from Colin Ross

Mind the gap! – why we use negative space

When delivering a design, a common request designers get is to add more information or expand objects to fill any remaining white space.

Michelle Barnett - 14/12/2017
Flat Design v Realism

Flat design vs skenomorphism! Flat design seems to be winning with Apple making the change.

Jo Wdowiak - 11/08/2014
Brand Typography

Typography is central to branding. It can establish a tone of voice - how you look and feel. Beth delves into this area and highlights a number of examples to demonstrate the importance of type.

Beth Evans - 06/04/2017
Branding for service companies

People complain. When the service isn't up to expectations, we hold it against the brand that served us. So how do you brand to manage expectations?

Frances Collins - 14/05/2014