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Color In Design: White

By Jennifer Farley

Over the last couple of months I’ve been writing about color in design, starting with red and now finishing today with the color white. White works well with almost any color. It has associations of cleanliness, innocence and purity. It’s traditional for Western brides to wear white, while in Western cowboy movies, the bad guy always wore black, while the good guy wore white.

Like black, the color white is a neutral color and is most frequently used as a background on the web, and of course in print. There is a misconception that white can be boring, or that choosing white is predictable, but there are many designers who choose and work with white to make beautiful designs.

Many of the best web sites which are using white appear “clean and simple”. This type of design can seem deceptively easy, but it really is a challenge. The best designs are often the ones that don’t look like they’ve been designed.


Using White In Design

There are many variations on the color white. Off-whites include antique white, cream, linen, beige, paper, snow, pearl and ivory and these can appear softer or less stark than pure white. Lots of white can be used with light blues to create a wintery palette, or with yellows and pastels to create a summery feel.

A splash of white can dramatically brighten a design and can make dark red, greens, blues and purples look more prominent. If you’re American, French, British, Swedish (and many other nationalities), then red, white and blue creates a patriotic palette. Black and white is the most contrasting combination you can have and can convey a feeling of seriousness or drama.

Using white does not mean being “minimalistic”. Minimalism is not dependent on any particular color. In the same way, “white space” does not necessarily mean that the space around any design element must be be white. You the designer must make the color choices.

So let’s take a look at some web sites which are doing nice things in white. It’s no accident that many of these sites use photographs or images that have white backgrounds, adding to the overall sleekness of the sites.


Eva Solo



The Typographic Desk Reference



Olive & Myrtle


National Television


Alex Trochet


Jo Santana


This Is Grow








Made By Sofa



What do you think about white, is it a color you deliberately (rather than just not think about it and leaving all space white) use in your designs?

Jennifer Farley is a designer, illustrator and design instructor based in Ireland. She writes about design and illustration on her blog at Laughing Lion Design.

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