The Importance Of Negative Space in Design

We’ve gone through the dos and don’ts of design and how to design data. Now it’s time to delve a little deeper and talk about the invisible elephant in the room…

Blank space.

And no, us designers won’t be Taylor Swift-ing it and writing your name to fill up the blank space. We’re leaving it blank… because we’re mavericks like that.

That’s because when too much information is in a layout, the messaging becomes cluttered and unreadable. Visual communication design is all about creating simplicity. You can’t do that if you fill up every bit of space possible with information.

The key to simplicity is keeping significant negative space.

Negative space is just as important as positive space, as it gives positive space more definition and brings balance to a composition. Too much information just doesn’t work. It takes longer to read and understand and when you’re designing data, a complicated infographic is a cardinal sin.

My number one infographics design rule has always been, and always will be, that less is more, but this is a tricky concept to stick to. Our first instinct as humans is to get things done quickly, because laziness is just human nature. This is why we see people creating designs with all the information they could ever find on one page, thinking (wrongly) that it means the information will be delivered quickly and will be easier for the viewer.

In fact, the viewer doesn’t know where to look or which information is the most important, and in the end you’ll spend too much time explaining it all. It is much better to deliver that information in bite size chunks on lots of different pages or sections. And this means embracing the blank space attitude.

It’s not our fault we do this, we’re battling with ingrained Darwinian stuff here. That’s why creating good design is harder than it looks. When designed well, negative space looks incredible, but it can also go very, very badly. Learn how to use it well and your customers, (and your boss) will thank you.