White Space is Not a Waste of Space

By Pravindhya Pussepitiya

“Can we remove or reduce the space between…?”

Well, this is one of the most frequent suggestions that User Interface designers receive. Why do these empty spaces bother so much, and why is it important to keep these spaces in designs?

This space we talk about here is technically called White Space. It is the empty space between design elements in layouts and page illustrations and the distance between individual readable letters and characters. White space is not always white in color; it can be any background that shows a void of content or busyness. You can notice white space not only in digital user interfaces but also in print designs, packaging, billboards, posters, interior designs, books, and almost all instances in your day-to-day life.

It might seem strange that the empty white background is considered a design element. But the strategic placement of white space can dramatically improve the composition of a good design.

Types Of White Spaces

Mainly, white space is explained in two ways. Firstly, regarding how the space is used in design, it is classified as Macro and Micro white space:

Macro white space is the space between larger elements like text columns and graphics. It also refers to paddings and margins.
Micro white space is the space between smaller elements like letters, text lines, paragraphs, icons, and buttons.

The example below will clarify the difference between Macro and Micro white space.

Macro White Space and Micro White Space

White space is also classified into two categories based on how it grabs the viewer’s attention, as Passive space and Active space :

Passive space is the space between small objects that goes unnoticed. Designers use it to create text or arrange paragraphs or icons. Though it often goes unnoticed, this white space is intentionally added in a very subtle way to allow the eye to easily read the design/text.

Active space is used to draw a user’s attention and to emphasize certain elements like a headline, logo, or graphic.

The example below will clarify the difference between Passive and Active white space.

Why White Space Is Important?

So, coming straight to the point, why exactly is white space important and how does it help to bring out a good design?

Maintain Visual Hierarchy

One of the key points is that white space helps to maintain the visual hierarchy in a design. Utilizing white space correctly will communicate data presentation in a proper hierarchy, making it easy for the user to grasp the content effortlessly. This determines the order of elements that should catch the viewer’s eye. Most of the famous brands use white spaces in their websites and posters. It Also Adds a sense of luxury to the brand. Apple’s website is one good example of using white space to optimize visual hierarchy.

Segment 1 , 2, 3 and 4 Is clearly distinguished and separated via better use of White space

Increase Legibility

Legibility refers to a text content being clear enough to read. The implementation of white space reduces the cognitive load of the viewer significantly. It organizes large blocks of information so that they remain easily digestible by the viewer, thereby dramatically optimizing the legibility of the content. Below Example will visually indicate the difference.

To maintain the Law of Proximity

The Law of Proximity is one of the Gestalt Principles and states that objects close to each other are perceived as more related than objects far apart. This theory should be considered, especially in the white space implementation in UX and UI Design and information visualization. Using the white space technique to group UX and UI-related elements improves overall legibility and navigation.

Group A and Group B is clearly identified by a white space


White space is not just an insignificant blank space; it can become an important design element used strategically. The average attention span of the viewer is getting progressively shorter, making the clever use of white space essential.

Therefore, the strategic implementation of white space is the ideal tool to direct the eye of the viewer; it is not a waste of space!