Empty space

My old boss and I were usually at odds. With any design project I presented they were always of the mindset that negative space, or empty space, was boring and needed to be filled. Filling it with something was called adding interest. They’d look over my work and suggest I add some of this to here and some of that to there. To their credit they’d avoid asking me to jazz things up. Instead, I needed to add interest.

This always offended my delicate baby designer sensibilities. I’d worked hard for all that nothing. What they considered interest I considered unnecessary. Empty space was there not because I’d forgotten to fill it but because I’d already chipped away at everything that was there that didn’t vitally need to be. I’d leave only what I could argue was essential and helped elevate the main focus of the product. Empty space, to me, was a result of thoughtfulness and served a purpose. To them, empty space was wasted space.

This tug of war went on for years. We were just two diametrically opposed designers in this regard. They liked adding, I felt better when I was subtracting.

That was a long time ago. I’ve since come to recognize I’m of average intelligence and often don’t know what I’m talking about and definitely don’t know everything. And while I’ve softened my hard stance and have learned it’s sometimes easier to let things go, my thoughts on empty space, on letting a product breathe and not being afraid of thoughtful emptiness, remain mostly the same. Put simply, it can be good.

This isn’t a careless endeavor. There can be such a thing as too much empty space. You’ll know when you’ve gone too far. Just make sure everything is done with intention and consideration.