Shawn Barry is a creative professional and Owner/Creative Director at Booster Rocket Media. Shawn has over 22 years experience in the creative industry as a graphic designer and art director. He also teaches graphic design through his own youtube channel.
There are universally accepted best practices in graphic design that apply to all mediums. Likely you’ve heard the term negative space before – it’s one of those practices used by designers all the time.
If they did it right, you likely didn’t even notice it. It tends to be a technique used to draw your attention to the message, or the theme visual, adding to it’s impact.
It’s a little counter-intuitive when you have a lot to communicate – it’s hard not to be tempted to use every pixel. The good news is, if you can grasp the idea of negative space, you’ll better understand how and when to use it.
The term “negative space”, in a graphic design context, is a little misleading. It sounds like you’re describing space on your page (real or virtual) with nothing in it.
That’s actually not true.
There’s plenty of “something” in that space, and when used with purpose, it’s resulting effect is anything but “negative”.
Negative space is a roadmap through your design and communications, showing the viewer the important stuff they need to know, or want to see.
It works a little like a photograph with some blurry areas, and one very sharply focused area. Your mind intuitively knows to ignore the blurry and go to the sharp.
Our brains are set to seek out familiar shapes and patterns, like recognizing someone’s face, a particular tree, or your pet cat from the neighbour’s cat.
Negative space in design sends your brain the same signals. When an empty space is interrupted by an element, your eye is drawn there.