This area we call space allows us to breathe, reflect and experience life the way we should with design. Its value extends beyond the the blank solid color that separates elements. It is needed to pause the action, silence the voices and bring clarity to a thought. Consider how space is applied in different mediums, places and situations:
Listening to Music
Like music, design has rhythm and beats. When we listen to music, we tap our feet because we connect with the tune and lyrics. The breaks composed between lyrics help us reflect on what is being sung. These spaces are strategically placed throughout the song by the musician to help us reflect on what came before while anticipating what’s ahead. Similarly, we can view a layout based on how patterns, words and pictures are synced and tuned in the design to create a nice transition between a graphic note and a set of words.
A well-paced movie will engage the audience for two hours and hopefully lure them to see it again. A film with non-stop action can get overwhelming. Sometimes when the dialogue is thick, we need breaks to make sense of the movie’s direction. In comparison, the dynamic between words and imagery in design plays an important role in how they interact with each other. If there’s too much activity with graphics and words and not enough transitional space in the layout, we risk losing our audiences’ attention. The moment between those elements can be the difference between a great experience and butt-numbing snooze fest.
Much like a painter needing to take a step back to look at the overall look of his work, the viewer must do the same. A work of art in a gallery requires a certain distance for viewers to appreciate the artist’s intention. The space around the art needs to be just right as does the lighting and the surrounding enclosure. Likewise, a well conceived layout needs to be lit with space, framed and positioned just right for the content to communicate its purpose and to create a mood.
The most expensive furniture can be purchased to make a room look great. But if it’s not arranged correctly, the clutter will cheapen the look. The decorator looks at space as a shape as much as the furniture itself. A well-planned living area can allow traffic to flow easily between the furniture. The same is true in a layout. The designer can gather all the coolest looking graphics, amazing photography and well-written copy, but somehow they all have to logically connect. The space created between each element will make it all come together. And the space around it will create the Feng Shui of the environment.
Dealing with People
Even people need distance from each other, whether it’s after an intense conversation, in a crowd of protesters or even at a line for concert tickets. Our space is important to us and when it’s invaded we become uncomfortable. We jockey for the top position, pushing each other out of the way for control and fighting for supremacy. The relationship between letters, words and graphics in a well-designed layout are dependent on how space creates hierarchy and separates warring factions. Space needs to be utilized well to control the angry crowd of words and graphics invading each others’ space.