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Elbow Room

Less is more. Most of us have probably heard that phrase in one setting or another, and oftentimes it’s true. Less talk can gain more attentiveness. Fewer words on a page can gain more readers. Fewer colors on a wall can mean less distractions and more elegance. The bottom line is our brains can only process so many things/stimulations at a time. It make sense that “less” would be “more” as we try to communicate whatever message we want to convey.

The same goes for graphic design. Sometimes clients give us a project and they want certain elements to be included. Let’s say a flyer, for example. They may have a collection of pictures or graphics they want to use, along with a certain amount of text. And sometimes… it’s simply too much. We can get it all to fit on the page, sure! But to the average eye, it will look cluttered. Just like stuffing too many pieces of furniture into a living room makes it hard to walk through, stuffing too many elements onto a piece of paper or screen makes it hard to figure out exactly what’s trying to be said.

We love what’s called “white space.” That’s the extra space around elements that make a piece breathe (regardless of background color). It’s virtual elbow room.

Sometimes it’s easy to cut down on content. For example, maybe we are trying to put together an advertisement for an event. We may be given:

What: Hooplah Concert

Where: City Hall Date: August 13

Time: 7:30pm

As designers, we may realize that generally speaking, the words “what, where, date and time” aren’t really necessary. We might choose to use bullet points, or creative placement and simply leave it at:

• Hooplah Concert

• City Hall

• August 13

• 7:30pm

No information is lost, and a little bit of clutter is eliminated. Maybe the issue is with graphics, and it would be a matter of choosing one really good picture instead of a collage of five. Or it could be that a client wants people to visit their website, so instead of including all information on their flyer, it would be better to use just a little bit and inform people to go to the website for the details.

Sometimes a page has a lot of words and it’s difficult to figure out which information is most important. Spreading things out by using separated paragraphs or bullet points creates white space, and helps draw the eyes to where they should go. Leaving a good-sized margin around the edges of a project directs attention to the center and gives it the illusion of less/shorter information (making someone more willing to read it).

Whether you’re putting together a printed outline for a presentation or creating a birthday announcement, don’t forget to include white space. It’s easier on the eyes and the brain.


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