White Space- Yes or No?

Most of the things we have read up until this point advocate the need for some white space in design in an effort to prevent an overload, specifically the book White Space is Not Your Enemy.  And then this week while reading Thinking with Type I discovered that there is a contingent of designers who are advocates of “visual density” who argue for “maximizing the amount of data conveyed on a single page or screen” (Lupton, 99).  Although Lupton does not discount these advocates, in fact she seems to agree with the argument for density as a way to help readers make connections and comparisons. However, in the next paragraph she vey emphatically argues that “a person can still process only one message at a time” (Lupton, 99).  

And this is where I became confused. Which is it? Do we like lots of white space or is “virtual density” the way to go? Lupton seems to agree on some level with both views- so which one are we supposed to practice? Is it a personal preference? I know, personally, web pages with too much going on (kind of like the Visual Thesaurus on page 94) are not my cup of tea.  But maybe everyone has a different preference. How do we figure that out? Do we take that into account when creating a web page or is there a fairly hard fast rule we are supposed to follow?

5 thoughts on “White Space- Yes or No?

  1. Becca,
    I don’t have an answer for you, unfortunately. In fact, I share your confusion. Design is such a subjective field and so contrary to the objectivity that we strive for as historians. I can’t think of a better example of conflicting advice than that which appears in the film Helvetica. Is font separate from content or does it carry meaning? Does Helvetica’s ubiquity make it an ideal or a repulsive font? I think these are things that we can (and should) continue to think about as we make our way through the semester. Ultimately though, I think the purpose of our sites will drive the design (…and maybe our minimal coding skills.) I’m also not a fan of the “visual density” design concept, but perhaps, at some point, we might find it a compelling design tool to convey a particular message…

  2. I’m with you, it can be really confusing! I think what I took away from all of this is that there is no one way to do everything. That we have to figure out what works for us, given the content and audience. If we’ve learned nothing, we’ve learned that comic sans would not be a great choice on our websites! I’m also now going to use Georgia for my papers.
    I’ve just interpreted all this to mean that there’s going to be a lot of trial and error before I figure out what looks good and is interpreted well.

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