Let’s talk about design, specifically white space.
A simple online search defines design as “a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other objects before it is made.”
In the context of this post, I’ll be focusing on graphic design and how it relates to life design (more on that later).
Design style varies greatly depending on what you’re trying to achieve. However, the kind of design that gets me excited is designed with lots of intentional white space.
What is white space in design?
White space (also known as negative space) refers to the areas in your design that don’t contain content, including the larger spaces between design elements and the tiny spaces between letters. It doesn’t have to be white.
Conversely, positive space are areas that contain content.
What are the benefits of white space?
I remember back in the late 90s. I bought gaming magazines. These publications were filled top to bottom with content and advertisements.
It was clear that the goal of the magazine design was about how to cram as much content as humanly possible into these magazines to generate more revenue.
And that’s the general mindset of people regarding design. Why leave space on the page when it could be utilised?
This is a valid point, but one I’d like to challenge.
See using space just because it’s available creates confusion. It’s like going to a packed-out stadium and trying to find your friends. All of those people in a confined area creates stress and unnecessary work.
White space gives the content more room to breathe. It provides content with more weight, more power, and more strength.
The most visited webpage in the world, Google, is a massive proponent of white space.
It’s clear that Google has one goal here. Enter your keywords and search.
Google could add filters and categories to help users define their search, I mean, they have lots of space to work with on this page. But instead, they chose to keep things simple and focused on their iconic search box.
Billions of search results are at stake for Google, but they still choose to focus on one goal. Think about that…
Do you have white space in your life?
We have an incredible opportunity to take a step back and design our lives with purpose.
Each decision we make creates either positive space or negative space.
But just like graphic design, the amount of white space in your life depends on what goals you have.
Again, Google’s goal is to get users to search for keywords. So their design is centred around that goal.
My goal, for example, is to spend time each day learning and writing without any distractions.
So how I design my life is focused around that goal. Instead of watching the soccer world cup, I read and write. Instead of going out with friends, I read and write.
Now, this is not to say that I don’t have commitments outside of learning and writing, of course, I do! I still might watch the odd game here and there, and I love spending time with friends. However, I’ve made an effort to be intentional about how I spend my time, and I’m always working to create white space so I can focus on the things that enrich my soul.
For you, it might be spending 90 high-quality minutes with your kids each evening after work. Or it might be making your own version of zero waste skincare products.
Whatever the goal is, think of something you want to do without distractions that will enrich you. This right here is probably the hardest part for most people.
Redesign your schedule with white space
The battle of our hearts are fought in the pages of our calendars – Bob Goff
Earlier this year I got caught in a productivity binge. In an attempt to improve my time management, I decided to run a complete calendar. This is a method of scheduling every time block in your day. Everything needs to be accounted for.
The idea was to be intentional about how I spent my time. However, my complete calendar ended up suffocating me as it didn’t allow for spontaneous activities. It was at this moment I started to think about white space and how much I needed it in my life.
If you were to treat your calendar like a design project, what would be your goal? How much white space would you factor in to focus your life activities?
In a time where we’re trying to cram as much as possible into a 24 hour period, it’s more important than ever to design for nothingness.
This is how we create the mental capacity to play, explore, learn, connect, rest, all without guilt or distraction.
A challenge for you
I want you to take your metaphorical design curser and start deleting content in your life. Look at your calendar, commitments, people, and press delete.
Once you’ve cleared out space, slowly add back content. But only the things that really matter. And take your time! This should be a joyous and empowering exercise.
For example, if you add training your pet dog, focus on that commitment and appreciate the capacity you have to take it a little deeper than what you would normally.
It’s only when you experience incredible depth in what you’re doing that you will start to appreciate white space.
So my question to you is, when you delete everything, what do you want to focus on first?
Leave your responses in the comments below.
This was a timely article to come upon. I am a landscape designer trying to reorganize my extensive gardens into a less laborious design. I’ve been focussed on keeping all my plants and fitting them in in a cohesive design. Reading your article made me realize I’m looking at this from the wrong end. I need to look at it as a blank slate with lots of white space and breathing room in the composition. Then and only then, can I add back the plants that I either love, perform well or somehow enhance the design. Thank you! Love your thoughtful writing.