White space or negative space are design terms that describe an empty area within or around an object or image. If used properly white space is created in balance with the objects on the page or slide.
Susan says have the courage to leave open space.
I think it is fair to say that we non-designers have an impetus to fill a space to its capacity, to leave no area without something in it. As a bookcase needs books or a cabinet needs curios, our instinct tells us to fill it up. In design, this is not the way to go. Too much stuff clutters the impact, distracts from the message, confuses the important with extraneous, less important filler.
When creating a composition, designing the balance between negative and positive space is not always easy. To be successful it depends upon other design principals such as proportion, contrast and rhythm.
In Lucia’s image, our eye is drawn immediately to the stark, black limbs of the tree. If that tree were surrounded by forest, we’d be less likely to see it, to feel its impact. If she had placed the tree dead center in her photo the balance and proportion could have felt trite or banal.
In presentation slide design, the same principals are at play. If you clutter your slide with text, images and graphics, the message that you want that slide to deliver is diminished. Where is your audience to look? With many things things demanding attention, none is given to anything. And, if you improperly balance your image or text against the white space, then your slide will feel top heavy, or even dull and uninteresting.
It’s a hard principal to follow if we feel our job is not finished until we’ve done our best to fully utilize every inch of the space given to us on that slide. But, your slide will deliver for you with far greater impact if you allow white space to prevail.
Lucia tells it from a photographer’s point of view.
Riding along in Eastern Oregon, I noticed this sole tree in the middle of nowhere. The scene was a natural for a negative space photo. Of course, I had to grab it, it was just crying out to me. You may wonder, what is the big deal with all this negative space talk. Everything Susan has said holds true about design. For me it’s a case of keeping it simple and sometimes what you don’t see in an image can be almost as important as what’s visible. As Susan mentioned, your eye is drawn to the tree (is it dead or dormant). I wonder. But there’s a starkness to this scene that I like very much. There’s not even a cloud in the sky to distract you from the dominant element in this photo. The tree stands alone.
Now Lucia adds some more design talk.
I can see how a photo like this could enhance your presentation. It allows space for your few words that back-up your point. Or maybe your point doesn’t need words. A photo like this could add intrigue and mystery to make your audience think. What is beyond the frame?
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