Why you need negative space in web design (and life)

In a world filled with chaos and clutter, clean design stands out.”

The Australian Open is here in Melbourne and I just watched one German tennis player (whom I've never heard of), slam one of my favourite players: Andy Murray.

What I found interesting was that the German player (He-Whose-Name-I-Can't-Pronounce :P, Mischa Zverev) seemed completely unfazed, despite playing against the defending world's number one. Most players would get pretty nervous just by that thought.

Yet Mischa Zverev remained calm the whole time, not letting his fear crowd his mind as he went on to win the match.

It was a breathtaking performance that made people stand up and take notice.


This made me realise (yet again) the importance of negative space in life. How important it is to maintain space in our thoughts and lives, to make way for greater things: like standing out and standing up to your biggest competition.

I'm a huge fan of negative space, because in a world filled with chaos and clutter, clean design stands out.

Negative space breaks the pattern, clearing the way into your audience's attention span, making space for the fundamentals: expressing your core message, creating that emotional connection with your audience, and guiding them clearly to the one thing you want them to do, that will very likely change their lives: to click the button to your call-to-action (be it to sign up to your mailing list or to download a product).

So you can help change their lives.

I like to start my designs with lots of negative space.

I just start with the core elements: one or two of the strongest brand colours. I take the strongest brand colour as an active element for buttons and calls-to-action.

I play around with the formatting. If I’m stuck, I would check Pinterest for inspiration.

Then I take a step back and look at it as a whole.

Is there too much negative space that it just looks unfinished?

When this happens, I then pull out this method we’ll call

The Space Cadet Balancing Potion

Where I’ll do one of three options:

1. Resize or move the elements around. I move the header, the button, the images to make sure that there’s better distribution of negative space. Maybe I’ll make the image larger, or the button larger. Or move the button so that there’s lots of negative space around it that it just stands out, not to be missed, tempting your visitors to press it.

2. Add a few more elements. This can be another image, or a shape, an outline, or a gradient. Something that will flow nicely with the brand’s personality. If it’s romantic and feminine, maybe a splash of watercolour. If the personality is bold, add some thick bold lines or use a background fill.

3. Go extreme. This is where I go bonkers and draw an imaginary tic-tac-toe-style grid on the whole thing. Then I move everything into two-thirds or even a third of the space.

Try it out and see for yourself how a little bit of space and a little bit of courage can give your designs that extra je ne sais quoi that gets your brand to stand out.

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