Most visual designers have vibrant imaginations that they channel into their work. When properly utilized, this creates balanced visual products. However, often designers forget that aside from the shapes, colors and text on their design, there is another important facet that must be considered. This facet is negative space.
Negative space is often underutilized by new visual designers, but it’s just as important to the cohesion of any visual product.
Learn about the importance of negative space and how you can use it effectively.
What is Negative Space?
Negative space refers to the areas between different design elements. It is the spaces between words, the gaps between paragraphs, the border around text and the blank areas that separates pictures.
Negative space is not just a design element but also harkens back to different spiritual and philosophical teachings around the world. The Japanese concept of “ma” is most often associated with it since “ma” also emphasizes that space is a way to show transition and foster appreciation of what is there.
Why is Negative Space Important?
If negative space is simply “absence,” what makes it so important to visual design?
After all, visual design is about what you can see, then why is it suddenly so important that you consider things you don’t see? Negative spaces serve several important uses for your design. These uses help make your design more palatable and even an effective means of conveying your message to the viewer.
Below are a few of the most pertinent reasons the absence negative spaces provide is essential to design.
Lets the Eye Rest
Many designs consist of a combination of text and images and it can be quite tiring for a viewer’s eyes and mind to see them in a single go. Negative spaces give the viewer’s eyes a place to rest, areas where there is nothing to process. This can help them process the information you are trying to convey through the visual and make it more appealing to read or skim through longer or larger designs.
The presence of negative space around a design element can significantly increase its visibility to the viewer. For example, if you want to draw attention towards a picture in a website page, you’ll have a hard time doing so if it’s surrounded by other pictures, blocks of text and splashes of color. But if the picture you want to be highlighted is separated from the others, the viewer’s eyes will be naturally drawn to it.
Contrast in visual design is often done using colors from the opposite sides of the color wheel. For example, the famous orange and blue combination that has been used exhaustively in Hollywood. However, you can achieve visual contrast by using negative space. If you want to showcase the difference between two things, you can surround one with more elements while keeping the other in an island of negative space. The amount of negative space near a design element can signal the contrast in more subtle way than any color combination.
How Can You Use Negative Space Effectively?
Negative space can be as tricky to use as visual design elements. Too much negative space can make your design look bleak and empty while too little creates a cluttered mess. Balance and focus are always the keys to using negative space effectively. Below are some tips on how to introduce and incorporate negative spaces in your visual designs.
Consider the Bigger Picture
The best way to ensure you incorporate negative space in a good way is by refining the entire design. Take in the totality of all the elements involved, from the colors to the words and all pictures. Fit them together in such a way that there is enough space between them all. Once you consider the entirety of the image, you will be able to detect where more negative space is needed.
Follow the Eye
Your eyes are the best tools for deciding when an area of your design needs negative space and when it doesn’t. Check if your eyes become too tired when you skim over the design. Do your eyes find it hard to concentrate on a single design element? This can be sign that you need to put more space around elements.
Select the Focus
Choose which elements of your design need the most focus. This can be the key paragraph in a page or the central image in a website. Once you select the element that will be the focus of your design, begin adjusting the negative space around it to highlight its importance. Set it apart from the others without alienating it and ensure that other focused elements also have their own areas.
Negative space is tricky to work with if you are coming from a mindset that believes presence is the only way to attract notice. Appreciating absence and boundaries can help you discover the visual importance of negative space.