Paying for Negative Space

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Sounds strange, doesn’t it? With high print costs, the shrewd thing to do would be to fill all that negative space with graphics so you can get your money’s worth, right?

Maybe not.

Maybe that’s what a lot of people are thinking. Maybe, even, you’d have a higher return on your investment if you let the negative space be negative.

Negative space, by itself, draws little attention. Space filled with lots to look at doesn’t draw much attention, either. But empty space with, say, one small focal point: that draws attention.

Say you’re glancing out the window at a dense forest; there’s too much to look at, too much to take in. To avoid sensory overload, you look away. That doesn’t mean the sight is unpleasant; it just can’t hold your focus and you’re left with little memory of what you’ve just seen.

Then you glance out another window and view a wide open field, big sky and one tree.

If this was a design situation where the goal was to convey “tree”, I would opt for the latter option. People crave simplicity; if we can take just one, solid thing away from what we’ve viewed, we’re satisfied—and we’ll remember what we saw. The greater the complexity, the more quickly we lose focus.

Setting your message apart and inviting the most attention: that’s the goal. And it may be that paying for negative space is the way to get you there.