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Negative Space

What is Negative Space?

Negative space (a.k.a. white space) is the empty area surrounding design elements.

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For example, it could be the gap between letters in a word, or the space between the headline and body text. It’s vital to have these blank areas because it brings focus to the most important element—like the headline or product, for example.

Let’s take a closer look at how to implement negative space in your designs.

What You Need to Know About Negative Space

Negative space is a vital design technique. It draws the attention and keeps the piece from looking overcrowded. It’s important for five main reasons:

1. Improves Readability

The correct use of negative space, undoubtedly, improves readability. To explain how, let’s take a look at the letter e. When we see it in a word, our brain takes in its constituent elements. The rounded shape, the flick of the tail, and the line through its center.

Our brain also recognizes the semi-circle within the letter, created from white space. If that negative space is reduced we would struggle to read it. We could even see it as a c or an o.

negative e

At best, the reader has to work to decipher the correct meaning.

At worst, the meaning of the sentence is changed completely.

2. Draws Attention to Images Using Macro and Micro Space

As the name suggests, micro spaces are the smaller empty areas of your design, while macro spaces are the larger.

Both can be utilized to draw attention to elements within your piece. Micro spacing—such as the tiny gaps between letters—makes individual letters much easier to read.

Macro spacing—like the large gap between a picture and body text on a webpage—helps to draw the eye to those two elements individually.

3. Emphasizes Importance of a Product in Print Design

By reducing text elements and increasing negative space in print, you can draw attention to an important product. For example, if you want to make an image on your page stand out, you can use more negative space.

print design

By limiting the amount of text you have, you place more emphasis on the product.

4. Provides Consistent Spacing for Better Overall Composition

White space is an extremely important element of the composition. If a design fails to include enough, it looks cluttered.

Design elements need to be given room to flourish. They need to be able to sit in their own space without other objects creeping into their area and distracting the audience.

5. Uses Larger Line Spacing for Better User Experience

Just like the major design elements in your piece, the text needs room to breathe. Increasing the space between lines can make your copy more legible.

Line spacing (also known as leading) is part of a piece’s micro spacing and should be considered whenever text spills onto more than one line.

How to Use Negative Space in Modern Design

If you are a designer or software developer, then you need to focus on your negative space as much as any other design element. It will make or break your piece.

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To help you out, using typography as an example, we have laid out this step-by-step guide to using negative space in modern design.

1. Choose Typeface Carefully

Your first step should be to carefully choose your typeface. Pick one that complements the emotion of your product.

Serif fonts are great for emphasizing the authority and history of a brand; however, if you’re looking for a modern design, you might choose a sans serif font. You also need to pick a font that is legible. Here’s where negative space comes into play.

Consider what medium your text is going to be displayed on. Typically, letters with more white space tend to be easier to read with smaller fonts.

2. Be Consistent with Fonts

Next, you should look to create a uniformity with your fonts.

If you are just starting out in the design world, you might want to stick to using two typefaces for your design: one for your headlines and one for your body text.

When you get more confident, you can add another if needed.

3. Let Negative Space Do the Work For You

Now that you have chosen the fonts you want to use and how you are going to use them, you need to think about your negative space. Which of your design elements needs emphasis? Where do you want to draw the reader’s eye?

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No reader should have to struggle to read your copy. Think about the spacing between letters, lines, and the text as a whole.

Remember, less is more when it comes to design. Give your text space.

We enjoyed exploring this topic with you. Want to keep going? Pick one of these related terms to read next:

A. Gradient [grey-dee-uh nt], noun:

As the perfect transition, jump into this definition of gradients. You’ll learn about how to use them in modern design… Read the full definition »

B. Skeuomorphism [skyoo-uh-mawrf-siz-uh m], noun:

Apple taught us the simplicity of effective design through this nostalgic technique… Read the full definition »

C. Vector Graphics [vek-ter graf-iks], noun:

This scalable image file is a favorite for many reasons, especially if you’re an illustrator… Read the full definition »

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