Embrace the beauty—and value—of white space
When healthcare marketers have a lot to say, white space often lands on the chopping block. But used wisely, it can be one of your most effective communication tools.
White space is like the palate cleanser that comes with a gourmet meal. Just as that spoonful of sorbet or bite of bread between courses highlights the intense flavors that surround it, white space in your publications and websites helps readers enjoy the full impact of your content and design.
Here's a closer look at what white space is, how it works and how healthcare marketers can be better advocates for it in their work.
What is white space?
White space is any space that appears between text and graphic elements in a design. And it's important to note: It doesn't have to be white. Any space—whatever the color or pattern—is white space as long as it provides a visual buffer between other types of content.
White space can be very small—like the space between lines of text or rows of images. Or it can be very large—like the empty margins surrounding an article or photo.
While it's tempting to look at white space as wasted space, there's good reason to resist the urge to fill it. Used artfully, white space can enhance both the effectiveness and the appeal of your marketing pieces.
What does white space do?
It sets up a clear hierarchy. Content can be difficult to navigate without white space. In this centerspread from Archbold Medical Center, the abundant white space around the headline and the introductory paragraphs—together with the bold colors of the text—guides the eye immediately to the start of the story.
It creates emphasis. The careful placement of white space can draw attention where it's most needed: to your calls to action. This page from Kettering Health Network's magazine is a good example of how white space, married with simplicity of design, can make a call to action pop off the page.
It clarifies relationships. Where you place white space—and where you don't—gives people important clues about how information is related. For instance, in this Coffey interactive infographic, we know the headline and subhead are a unit because they are tightly spaced together. The white space that follows signals a shift to a new type of information. And then again, the minimal white space between the age buttons clearly groups them together. In this way, without any words, the infographic offers hints about how to navigate itself.
It creates balance and comfort. White space provides visual relief from copy-heavy portions of a design. For example, on this Adventist Health Castle page, most of the page is filled with text. But it is balanced by the white space around the illustration so that the overall effect is approachable.
It enhances readability. Heavy blocks of text can be tiring to read. By providing a resting place for the eye and mind, white space can make information easier to digest. Note how breaking the tips into columns, with plenty of white space between, makes for a quick, inviting read on this page from Dignity Health–St. Rose Dominican.
It can set a luxurious tone. Jam-packed pages may have a noisy appeal. But louder isn't always better. When white space is used in abundance, as on this web page from CarolinaEast Health System, it suggests comfort and sophistication—qualities most healthcare marketers would like consumers to associate with their services.
How to make white space a priority
When real estate in your publication or on your website is in high demand, you can avoid putting white space on the chopping block by:
- Providing clear direction on word counts to writers—and getting comfortable with breaking out that red pen when cuts are called for.
- Asking stakeholders to identify their priorities. That can help you and designers know where the emphasis needs to be and how to use white space most effectively.
- Advocating for the value of white space with your colleagues and the C-suite. Make sure they understand how it can help communicate your message and elevate your brand.