There is a lot more to white space in brand design than the name suggests. For a start, it needn’t necessarily be white – rather, so long as it is free from other design elements, the space can be any shade or colour. And, although ‘space’ naturally suggests emptiness of thought and a lack of performing content, white space actually performs a set of vital functions that is essential to the whole of a design.


White space isn’t a passive bystander to the ‘designed’ elements, but (as per Jan Tschichold, the famous Dutch typographer and designer): an active element itself. Here are a few of the jobs that white space performs for designers and brands.


White space makes adverts more readable. The images and texts that remain are easier to comprehend as a result of the judicious white space that surrounds them. Focusing on the white space as much as the core messages behind the design helps a designer to reduce superfluous design. White space (and the associated reduction in clutter and confusion) helps the important message do its job better. By leaving out content and design that doesn’t matter, the white space provides clarity and helps the audience to zero in on what matters.


White space allows for a conversation. Filling design with elements and messages doesn’t allow room for the audience to have thoughts and interpretations of their own. For organisations like Google and Apple, the application of white space is almost a philosophical one as much as a pragmatic commercial decision. They want us to be able to project our own hopes and desires onto their brands, not be told exactly how to feel. The clarity of message, and the space for dialogue, makes for a more engaging space.


Talking about rarefied brands like Google and Apple brings another well-used functionality of white space to mind. White space in this case is also used to invoke luxury and brand confidence. Not needing to express everything in an advert indicates that there is no need to: allowing the brand to speak for itself is a symbol in itself.


Freeing up design elements to provide more white space isn’t progressive. Deliberating on whether or not you will add elements, to the detriment of the white space, is. Everything that is added to a design reduces the performance of white space as a message clarifier, so the designer should be absolutely sure that everything added is essential. Accordingly white space helps the designer to think about what belongs and what doesn’t in a design.


The above principles are relatively recent. Whether simply as a reaction to the clutter of Victorian design (do you suffer from a fear of empty space?), or possibly as a result of massive reductions in the cost of production, design has found the value of white space and now, rightly, needs to be convinced of the value of replacing it with something else. When we design adverts for brands today, we rightly need a very good reason for everything in frame.


By Oliver Brown.