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White Space - A Vanishing Art
by William Szczepanek

Article 19: January 19, 2009

Words. Words. Words.  It’s a world of words.  Words drive the content of the Web.  They’re everywhere.  People look for them.  Robots hunt them down, gobble them up and spit them out in analytics used to drive the rankings war.  The term “War of Words” has never been more significant. Words communicate.  More words communicate more.  If there is empty space on a Web page it is usurped by ads willing to pay for the space.

Web pages are taking off where newspapers have left us. I’m sure as monitors get larger more words will appear on a page.  As mobile devices get smaller the challenge will be to get at all of these words quicker. The term “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” is truer than ever before, but more than likely refers to a thumbnail that pulls you into an article. Thumbnails also fill every nook and cranny of many pages.

Negative space is another more modern, generic term for white space. The term white space comes from the print industry where pages were nearly always white, so an abbreviated use of text or pictures left white space.  Today, magazines and Web pages tend to be very colorful, so the term refers to the space that is not used.


                                                 used creatively
                                  white space can produce remarkable
                                  results that can effectively emphasize a point
                                  without using photos or text that will
                                                 normally fill up
                                               a page.


The best examples of white space also appear in art and photography.  A great example of the use of white space can be seen in The Art of Duncan Asper, where not only does his artwork demonstrate excellent use of white space, but his Web page accentuates all of the pertinent information in a way that is both useful and efficient.  His site exemplifies the fact that high page rankings can be accomplished without filling the page with keyword-rich text.  The fact that his site is called white-space helps a lot.

Sometimes just letting the text breathe by adding additional leading can make your paragraphs easier to read and be more aesthetically pleasing.  While the words make take up more space on a page, the additional leading makes it easier to read from line to line, especially when the lines are long.  This paragraph has a ratio of 1 to 1.5 rather than the typical 1/1 ratio of line height to line space.

In this hectic world of in-your-face marketing and multi-tasking mania, the self-imposed obsession of filling every piece of time, space and thought with something of value can be a very intense and tiring experience. Sometimes just seeing a beautiful picture or a beautiful Web page can be the tonic we need to get through the day without going insane.