When Negative Space is a Positive Thing

Less is more in life and design.

Just like mindful mental breaks can rejuvenate creative energy in the workplace; empty space, white space, or “negative space” also have the power to create margin between elements in any visual marketing piece (digital or physical). Yet, this might be just the little–important–element many companies are forgetting to hand over to their graphic designer.

Visually, negative space has the positive power to create breathing room around our meat-and-potatoes content: our logo, tagline, text, offers, images, graphics, website URL, and contact information. It brings clarity to what could easily be cluttered.

Negative Space Definition

In art and design, negative space refers to what’s left of the canvas, paper, or web-page after content or subject matter is placed. It’s the “white” space around your content. In other words, it is the background to your foreground elements.

It’s important because it gives space for the eye to rest and it is a key player in building powerful intrigue between elements on the page. It’s powerful because of its calming influence. It helps minimize data input into the brain, therefore, making focus on key messaging easier. All the while, negative space is creating beauty where there could have otherwise been an overwhelm of information.

Don’t let the negative connotations of its name deter you, negative space is a positive element in design. It increases visual interest and drives home the main points you were wishing your prospective buyers would understand. The problem is: this visual elbow room also costs a little more. To include it, it might mean a few extra pages in your catalog, a little larger postcard mailer, or—more importantly—it may mean spending a little extra, precious time crunching down text to only the essentials. Either way, negative space is priceless to your marketing strategy.

Negative Space Operating Positively in the Real World

When thinking of negative space operating positively in the real world, think: Apple marketing. There is a lot of empty space around their product photos with just a few words in their title and even smaller description copy.

Think: Geico commercials. They never go into their policy details during a commercial. They simply grab our attention and convince us to visit them online. By taking their lead, we can remember that ruthlessly cramming in too much information into one marketing piece could simply overwhelm the consumer and lose their attention.

In the same way, our overflow of information can be placed on the company website for further reading. Although storage space on our website is not limitless, few companies take advantage of its breath.

So, the next time you hand your graphic designer assets for a print piece, remember to also give them some ample negative space as well.

Create ample negative space, to bring clarity to your messaging, most affordably by:

  • paring down text and messaging only to the essentials
  • keeping overflow of information on the company website

As a last, and more pricey, resort:

  • increase size
  • up the page number
  • or increase the number of direct marketing pieces (For example, send out quarterly mailers in smaller, directly selected audience campaigns vs. a single, vast, and unspecified audience campaign.)

Either way, remember, negative space is a positive element that will help make your visual marketing strategy a success.