Whitespace for dummies.
You see a parking sign like this every day as well as many other street signs. You probably do not even look at them with care, you just glance over them and you instantly know what they represent.
Parking is to the left. Obviously.
The question that comes to mind: why is there so much unused space around the letter P? There are thousands of such signs around in your city, and they cost hefty money to make. Why bother with such a huge space around letter P that is not occupied with information? Why not cut down this sign to the border of letter P, and save lots of material, therefore save money?.
This Parking sign is actually a construct of two major elements which when combined form a single piece conveying information.
- 1. Letter P in the center,
- 2. Lots of whitespace surrounding it.
Not counting the border that might or might not be present on your local Parking sign
The whitespace surrounding central piece of information is here to make sure this construct conveys the information. If you remove whitespace, the central information will blend with the background or other objects. In this case, if there was a white building in the background or a cloudy sky – the main information would be choked.
Notice that arrow below the parking sign? Notice the convenient white color making whitespace around it? If you removed that whitespace, and cropped that sign down to arrow edges, entire sign would become unusable.
Knowing all this can help you understand why, for example, Google dominates the market today. The whitespace surrounding Google logo makes sure that you instantly notice and recognize Google, while the whitespace surrounding search field makes it painfully obvious what this site is all about and what you should do next.
This is why Google is homepage for most browsers and not overcrowded Yahoo or poorly designed Alta Vista. Yes, there is a lot of technology in the background as well that Google does well, but we are focusing just on design here. It's what people notice first after all, and why people started switching to Google some years ago.
Not a gimmick
Whitespace is not some "designery gimmick". It is not a trend in design. Whitespace is integral part of a construct helping the central piece to communicate a message. Removing whitespace corrodes the construct's ability to work.