Business cards are an extension of your branding, lending potential clients your information in a memorable package.  While business cards are usually an afterthought for conventions, business cards should be seen as small, personal advertisements for your company.  I believe that an effective business card clearly answers the following three questions in order:

  1. What do you do?
  2. How do I contact you?
  3. Who are you? […]
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.

No matter how optimistically it is presented, no matter how often it is mentioned that “everyone’s onboard” and no matter how much you want to believe it will work for the better, design by committee is a process that delays the completion of a website that no one involved will be happy with.

I have seen this situation play out countless times on website development projects throughout the years. When a committee is involved everyone has to compromise to some degree yet no one wants to. Someone has to sign off on design work yet no one is willing to do so until everyone is in agreement. Someone has to direct the design team and provide timely feedback yet no one wants do so independently without a scheduled meeting.

Everyday, sites with a single point of contact move quickly through the system. There is less spreading out of the information that is shared, so consultations have more impact. Impromptu meetings can occur on a moments notice. Feedback is immediate. All involved in the project stay engaged from start to finish.

Don’t let your website development project become a burden and use your committee as an excuse to procrastinate until later – have a single point of contact for your website that is committed to it’s delivery.