Use White Space to Create Effective Web and Graphic Designs

Last week Fire Enterprises (FEI) Marketing Tribe Leader Marka taught rookie customer-service rep Aetius how white papers can function as effective informational pieces for B2B companies. This week, FEI design guru Cecil shows the FEI tribe how white space can function as a highly effective graphic design element. Remember, fire = print.

One afternoon, FEI Sales Tribe Leader Zoot brought Cecil a design comp for a new FEI ad, which he’d quickly put together in O-Powerpoint. “Whaddya think?”

“This design is creative but way too cluttered,” Cecil said. “Don’t you know how to use white space as a design element?”

Zoot looked at Cecil with confusion.

“I better call a meeting,” Cecil said.

The next day, the FEI tribe—Zoot, Tribe Leader Org, Marketing Tribe Leader Marka, and Accounting Tribe Leader Numo—gathered in the main FEI conference room.

“Today we’re going to talk about using white space as a design element in print and graphic design,” Cecil said.

“Why should we care about this?” Numo asked. “We’re not designers.”

“Anyone involved in creating FEI’s marketing materials should understand the concept of white space,” Cecil said. “White space is defined as the spacing between different elements in a design. This includes everything from the space between sections of a promotion to the space between letters.”

“Many designs I see today—ads, postcards, O-Websites, even text-heavy pieces like case studies—use lots of white space,” Marka said.

“True,” Org said. “Think about Grape Computers. Their ads—and their stores—are as minimalist as they come.”

“White-space-heavy designs have become popular for a reason,” Cecil said. “Consumers like them because they’re easier to scan or read, and businesses like them because they help effectively communicate marketing messages. Let me explain further.”

Cecil headed to the whiteboard and began scribbling:

White space is pleasing to the eye—“White space leads to simpler designs, and the eye is drawn to simplicity,” Cecil said. “Designs that are too crowded or complicated are harder for users to enjoy. Promotions that are more pleasing to look at are more likely to get read.”

Remember,” Cecil continued. “Lots of white space doesn’t have to mean boring. White space can connote elegance and sophistication. Think of Grape Computers’ Website—it’s minimalist with white space galore, and it’s anything but boring.”

White space increases readability—“Most prospects will quickly scan our promotion before actually reading to see if it interests them,” Cecil said. “Cluttered and text-heavy designs are hard for consumers to take in at a glance. White space provides a valuable buffer between design elements, making it easy for today’s busy consumers to quickly get a sense of what a promotion’s offering. Putting appropriate spacing between lines and letters is also proven to improve readability of our copy. Making our promotions easier to scan and read will increase the chances of prospects taking the desired actions.”

T.J. Tedesco is a sales growth, business strategy, marketing and PR consultant operating at the intersection of clear vision, compelling content and effective outreach practices. For nearly two decades, T.J. has been an independent consultant and sales growth team leader. Previously, he sold commercial printing, graphic arts machinery and supplies, and finishing and bindery services. T.J. helps North American companies with content development, Web and print design leadership, nurture marketing programs, sales coaching, sales team alignment and business strategy. Since 1996, T.J. has worked with more than 100 clients on retainer, 80 percent in the graphic arts industry. T.J. is author of "Win Top-of-Mind Positioning," "Playbook for Selling Success in the Graphic Arts Industry," "Fire! How Marketing Got Hot," "Direct Mail Pal" and four more books published by PIA. He can be reached at (301) 404-2244 or
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  • printkeg

    I try to use quite a bit of white space on our website to keep the site clean.