Importance of white space

“What you leave out is just as important as what you leave in”  (Jacobb Cass, 2009)

The theory and use of white space within Graphic Design is important for the designers to effectively achieve a balanced composition and pleasing design (Jacobb Cass, 2009).

White space (aka negative space) is the space between the elements in a design, which is also referred to as ‘Figure-ground’, where the ‘figure’ is the object and the ‘ground’ is the background space or the space the object is in. All visual elements are seen in relation to the visual field, background or frame, therefore every form is seen in context and cannot be seen in total isolation. (Dabner, David; Calvert, Sheena; Casey , Anoki, 2012)

It appears in many minimalistic designs, the white space is likely to be the largest space when compared to the positive space, however it is not always recognised first. The ‘figure’ tends to be seen before the ‘ground’.

Examples of minimalism that use white space as a key element (within my focused area of adverts)




A theory where the relationship between the ‘figure’ and the ‘ground’ can be confused is the Gestalt theory.  This theory focuses on visual perception of the mind, which finds patterns that include objects and the space between them. The relationships of the ‘figure’ and the ‘ground’ create ambiguity because it creates questions as to what can be seen. For example, is the below image a black triangle with a hole through the middle or a black triangle with a white circle on top?

Gestalt Traingle

Source: Gordon, I. E, illustration from Theories of visual perception, 2004. (East Sussex: Psychology Press) Page 15.

I will ensure the use of white space is prominent in my minimalist designs because it creates an effective first impression and communicates the message successfully, whilst retaining minimalism in my design.


Cass, J (2009) Negative Space. Available at: [Accessed: 14 December 2012]

Dabner, David; Calvert, Sheena; Casey , Anoki (2012), The New Graphic Design School : A Foundation Course in Principles and Practice, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Gordon, I. E, (2004) Theories of visual perception, East Sussex: Psychology Press.

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