What do you do when you’re faced with creating a great design—but have no images to bring variation and interest to the piece? John McWade’s answer to this common challenge is to use more white space, also known as negative space. This is the portion of a page left unmarked, such as margins, gutters, and space between columns, lines of type, and graphics. It may sound like a simplistic solution, but it’s a great way to make your design more dynamic, and attract your viewer’s attention.
In an image-free design, you only have two elements to play with: the background, which John refers to as the “white stuff,” and the text, or “black stuff.” Your role is to create a balance between the two. By reducing the size of the text in relation to the page, you’ll be able to increase the white space and play with the shape of it, introducing dimension and energy to the design. In the examples above, John began with a vertical list of names, like we have seen a million times before. By shifting the the text from vertical to horizontal and increasing the white space, John activates the layout through shape and weight for a more compelling design. He also introduced the beautiful gray background, adding another layer of design hierarchy. Lastly, a large header in Adobe Garamond, a timeless typeface, was added as a strong focal point. The result is modern, elegant, and most importantly, eye catching!
Be sure to watch the rest of John McWade’s course Before & After: Graphic Design Techniques, where he shares 18 simple design tips that will immediately improve your layouts! John is the founder of Before & After magazine, as well as author of the course Before & After: Things Every Designer Should Know, also available on lynda.com.