Feb 2, 2010

What is Whitespace?

Whitespace—or, negative space—is the open space between elements in a design. The space can be a color other than white, as long as the area is void of elements.

whitespace

It’s common for whitespace to be seen as “wasted space,” especially when you are working with a limited area. After all, why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of every inch of space in your advertisement / brochure / website?

You may be surprised to know that the space that is empty is just as influential as the space that is filled with text and photos.

Using Whitespace to Your Advantage

When there are too many elements in a design—whether those elements are photos, fonts, or headlines—it appears cluttered and crowded. Imagine a room filled with people that are talking at the same time. Would you know who to listen to first? How long would you stay?

Removing unnecessary elements in your materials not only de-clutters the design, but it also places more emphasis on the most important message.

One company that has learned this lesson is Apple. Their advertisements are famous for their simplicity and use of whitespace. Take a look at their homepage from October 2009:

apple-screenshot

Immediately, you are presented with three things: An interesting image that grabs your attention, a short explanation of their latest product, and their call to action, “Watch the iMac video.” They are using whitespace to direct their customers to the most important information within seconds, and to show them where to click next.

Now, Apple has the advantage of being a household name with millions of fans worldwide who are already familiar with their products. Most businesses will probably need to present a bit more information, in order to convince potential customers that their products or services are worth the price. However, the same concept still holds true — adding unnecessary information only distracts from the goal you have set; whether that goal is to click on a link, call your phone number, visit your website, or buy your latest product.

Why Simplicity is Important

Billboards are an example of one medium where a simple message is absolutely necessary. Drivers are — hopefully — concentrating on the road, and only glancing up at signs and billboards for just a few seconds. If you can’t condense your advertisement into 6 words or less, then the driver won’t have enough time to read your entire message.

Designing for websites is similar. The average user will decide whether to stay or leave your website within just a few seconds. That means you need to immediately grab their attention, reassure them that your website has the information that they are looking for, and convince them to stay on your website a little longer.

The only way you can accomplish all this is to decide on the most important information, make it the most prominent part of your marketing piece, and get rid of anything that is a distraction. By de-cluttering your designs, you are able to guide your potential customers to the information that you want them to read, and create truly effective promotional pieces.

Some Tips for Reducing Clutter

  • Use headlines and sub-headlines to break up large areas of text. This allows the reader to quickly scan the text to get a summary, and to skip to the section that interests them.
  • Use simple language. Make your text easy to read and understand, and avoid overly technical language that would be overwhelming and confusing. If your text looks like a lot of work to read, your readers will simply go elsewhere.
  • Create a focal point. If you have several images on a page, your viewers won’t know where to look first. Make one or two of your images more prominent, and place your call-to-action nearby.
  • Create Relationships. Group related items (like a photo, description, and link) together so they are seen as one element instead of three. You can do this by making the space between these elements smaller than the space that surrounds them.
  • Add Whitespace. Make sure there is enough space in your margins, between paragraphs, and around your elements so the overall design is clear and easy to understand.

When it comes to advertising, there are a number of ways to promote your business. Make the most of your advertising budget by creating ads that specifically target your potential customers.

There is no universal advertising solution that works for all businesses, because every business has a unique audience. Once you define your market, you can start thinking creatively to target more customers with your advertisements. For example, a local daycare center may find that advertising on the back of a school play program is more effective than advertising on the radio, because the school program specifically targets parents in nearby schools.

This article will go over many types of advertising media that you can use to promote your business. […]

Mar 20, 2006

Weekend in Tallahassee

This weekend I was in Tallahassee as a delegate for the Greater Ocala Advertising Federation at the quarterly district conference. As a first time delegate, I found it interesting to sit back, observe and learn about the operations of the advertising federation and my role within it. More interesting was to see how our local Ocala market compared with the larger Orlando, Tampa and Miami markets. I’m happy to say, as expected, that we rate very well indeed.

The nick-name of the convention was the “2006 Schoomapalooza”. Obviously, plenty of opportunities to network with others exsisted, but what I most got from the convention was informative insight from the guest speakers on hand to present. Bud Hanson with Fish-On Marketing gave a great presentation on the often elusive experiential marketing concept. Bud did a great job explaining and offered many good ways to impliment the concept. I’m hoping we can bring him to Ocala to speak at one of our local luncheons.

Saga Shoffner, the Associate US Advertising Director for Nike was also onhand to explain the behind-the-scenes creative sessions that have brought forth many of Nike’s best advertising over the last 15 years. Nike my be an international company with a mega advertising budget, but their practices in advertising serve equally well to businesses of all sizes. Both Bud and Saga showed that it is more about creativity than budget (although budget is always good!).