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Spring Cleaning: Making Room for Light & White Space

spring light and white space

Though the weather might not reveal it (at least here in the Finger Lakes of New York State, where fresh coats of snow still greet us each morning), the season has changed. Spring is here!

The first thing that rightly comes to many minds is the ritual of spring cleaning — going through your home with the dust rag and floor polish; opening the windows to let the fresh air in; shaking out the well-worn winter sweaters in favor of short sleeves and lighter coats in the closets.

For me, spring cleaning means absolving ourselves of the things no longer serving us. It means making space. It means feeling lighter.

What does this have to do with design, you ask? Everything, of course.

Like we need to make space in our physical and mental environments, we need to make room for light and white space in our designs.

Myth busting: white space

The role of white space has long been debated in design. While some simply prefer to design with more or less white space, greater amounts of it have typically lent themselves to formal designs and luxury brand aesthetics. In my opinion? The Apple and Rolex brands of the world aren’t the only ones who should be maximizing white space.

In fact, simple and uncluttered design — that which strategically uses white space — is one of the most powerful ways to convey a message.

There’s a lingering design myth that we need to bust straight away: white space is not wasted space. White space is as important as logos, graphics, type, and all other elements of design.

What’s this white space?

White space, commonly referred to as negative space, is, as you’ve probably guessed, the space between elements in a layout.

Macro white space refers to the space between larger elements — a logo and a graphic, for example. Micro white space, on the other hand, refers to the space between smaller elements — list items, for example. Both are incredibly important.

The issue really, is this common conundrum in both graphic and web design: there’s so much content to cover and information to convey, and only a limited amount of overall space to do it in. It’s easy for clients to want to fill up every single space until the design ends up looking as crammed as the classifieds.

Strategically using white space

Cluttered design makes for lost messages. Start your spring cleaning by considering two ways to use white space to let the light in on your layout: actively and passively.

Active white space will lead a viewer’s eye from one element to another. Consider a photograph with the subject off-center, looking toward the direction with greater open space. Your eye will automatically follow that gaze.

Passive white space is exactly that — passive. It’s the white space we control when we set margins, typefaces, weights, and leading.

White space is subjective, and therefore there are no succinct rules for using active or passive negative space. That being said, here are two general guidelines to get you started:

1. Maximizing white space means beginning by seriously considering all of the elements in your layout and weighing both their importance and their relation to each other.

2. Acknowledge that white space is one of those elements.

When in doubt, remember this quote from Jan Tschichold, who stated it perfectly in 1930: “White space is to be regarded as an active element, not a passive background.”

Give your eyes room to rest

The way to better design is through experimenting with increasing white space. Even the tiniest amounts of white space — the micro of the micro — can make a huge impact. (Just think of newspapers and magazines. The best-designed ones are able to pack in the information without the overwhelm.) White space gives your viewers breathing room. It lets the light of spring in. It offers the eyes room to rest.

Want to learn more about how to evaluate the elements in your brand? Download my free e-book, What Does Your Brand Say? now!

The next time you’re looking at a layout, take note of the use of white space. How does it help the composition?

Your Brand and Your Ideal Client: Are They on the Same Page?

Are Your Brand and Ideal Client on the Same Page

Branding. At this point in the game, the word may seem overused. Just jargon. Buzzword-y.

True. Everyone’s talking about your brand. But want to know why that is?

Because it’s one of the most important pieces of your business.

What your brand can do for you

There’s hardly a business owner in this world who’s doing something that isn’t being done elsewhere. (Scary, right?) As a graphic designer, I know there are other people selling branding packages. As a painter, I know there are other people working with oils and canvas.

What sets you apart from the others in your niche and creates your loyal audience and your faithful buyers?

Your brand, and the aspects of it that are unique to you.

My branding packages are differentiated not by the quality graphic design that’s delivered — lots of graphic designers are capable of creating quality work. My branding packages are differentiated by the fact that each one begins with my unique process — BRANCH — that represents my brand, and I bring my positive, artistic, nurturing brand to all of my client work.

It’s your brand that connects you to your ideal clients with whom you want to work. (Click to tweet this.) When I let my brand drive my work — my website, my client work, my communications — I naturally attract the types of people and businesses that I want to work with. Want to do the same? Ask yourself the following questions — and answer honestly.

Get honest with yourself about your brand — start here

1. Who is my ideal client?

Determining your brand is very much about you, yes, but first you must be honest about who you want to work with. Consider the demographics (age, gender, geographic location, etc.) as well as the psychographics (personality traits) of your ideal client(s). Create corresponding profiles you can refer back to for each one.

2. What is my brand?

Get right to it. What characterizes your brand? What emotions does your current brand evoke when someone sees it, reads it, or experiences it? Are the colors, fonts, graphics, and tone representative of your business’ personality, process, and philosophy?

3. Does my current brand appeal to my ideal client?

Starbucks’ ideal client is someone willing to pay a premium for a quality cup of coffee served by a well-trained, personable barista in a relaxing, pleasant atmosphere. Its brand reflects its ideal client in its simple graphics, sophisticated tone, deep green colors, and upscale aesthetic. Starbucks can answer this question with a deep, resounding “yes.”

But here’s the thing: Starbucks has been in this game for decades. The company has gone through several iterations of its brand to get where it is today.

As small business owners, we often have to do the same. It’s what I did with the move to this new website that better reflects my brand, and it’s what I help small business owners do in industries across the board, from travel and tourism to retail and spas.

Aligning your brand with your ideal client profile is one of the best decisions you can make, because, as I mentioned — your brand is one of the most powerful tools in your small business arsenal. It’s worth it to take the time to get it right.

Start by answering the three questions above, then take it a step further: opt-in with your name on my home page, and receive my free workbook, What Does Your Brand Say? It’ll put you on the perfect path to considering the elements that will bring you back to a brand that speaks volumes about your business and connects you with your ideal clients.

Then, tell me below: what’s one thing that’s working when it comes to your brand? What’s one thing that’s not?