What is Whitespace and Why is it Important?

What is Whitespace and Why is it Important?
4 minutes read. May 26th, 2020.

How Whitespace Works

Being able to define whitespace is only half the battle – the key to understanding it is possessing an awareness of how it works. People fall down in their belief that any empty space within a design must be filled (and that whitespace is essentially wasted space). In reality, whitespace is just as vital as an area of a design which is populated with content.

The aim of the game is effective communication – we need to lead the audience through a design (and possibly towards an end goal). There are a number of ways of doing this, whitespace being one of the primary methods. By establishing proximity between design elements, it’s possible to draw an audience towards (and away from) certain features.

Think about a double page spread in a newspaper. In terms of layout, we see clear design choices such as the size of margins and spacing between the lines and columns – these considerations afford the design room to breathe and, as a result, communicate effectively. In newspapers where there is no narrow black line in place to separate one story from another, there’s always a certain amount of whitespace to enable readers to distinguish where one article ends and another begins. This whitespace links closely with hierarchy (such as enlarged, emboldened headings, which set themselves apart from the smaller body copy) in order to guide the audience.

You may have realised by now that, intentionally or not, you’ve made design considerations using whitespace before. No doubt at some point or other you’ve booted up Microsoft Word, entered your document title and hit the return button several times in order to separate your main body of text and add some structure to your document. It’s highly likely you’ve used indented bullet point lists. Chances are some of you have played around with line spacing, as well as margins and columns. It may be a basic example, but even a simple Word document shows whitespace in action.

Whitespace in Web Design

Web design also places great importance on the use of whitespace. You may or may not have come across the terms ‘margins’ and ‘padding’, which are two of the most important layout-related terms that a web designer must consider. Essentially, a margin is the space outside an element, whereas padding refers to the space inside something. A web designer needs to be picky when it comes to margins and padding – they are the key to a consistent, well-proportioned design, and it’s all thanks to whitespace.

In design (and branding specifically), first impressions are everything. Websites are often the first point of contact between brand and audience, with consumers often looking for a brand that communicates on their level. Needless to say, a cluttered and overcrowded homepage, which gives little thought towards whitespace and cohesion, runs the risk of placing consumer-brand relationships under threat before they’ve even begun.

Striking a Balance

Layouts require us to maintain design integrity between elements that both are and aren’t there. As we’re always saying, it’s all about balance – when executed well, manipulation of whitespace creates breathing room without compromising consistency and harmony. Finally, we must not forget that people’s eyes simply need a break every once in a while – keeping distractions to a minimum will allow audiences to absorb information more effectively and engage with the design.


Balance, breathing space, cohesion… all positive words, aren’t they? That’s just a taster of a world that awaits once we all come to realise that there’s nothing to be feared if we embrace the space...

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What is Whitespace and Why is it Important?

Paul Hough

Creative Director

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