Using Space: Real World Examples

By LaurenMarie

If you’re a new visitor or subscriber to Creative Curio, you’ve come in towards the beginning of a series on the elements of design. This is the third post on the series real world examples of the elements (the first two being Using Lines and Using Shape, but if you’d like to read up on the theories, visit the first series on the elements of design on Creative Curio: line, shape, space, size, texture, value and color.

Space is probably my favorite element of design. It’s so versatile and I think it can have the most impact on a design. Whether your intention is to make the viewer feel claustrophobic or free as a bird, space can help you do it.

In its most basic definition, space is mass, height, width and depth.

Space is used to

  • Set mood
  • Emphasize
  • Create depth
  • Balance
  • Rest

Paul Sahre – Free Lecture Poster

Space, often referred to as “white space,” doesn’t have to be white. It can be blue, yellow or even pink. White space is really referring to a place for the eyes to rest, for the design to breathe. It relieves tension.

This poster by Paul Sahre creates an interesting juxtaposition of the substantial amount of white space and the thin, stretched, barely readable text. The design feels all at once peaceful and anxious. I would actually call the white space (the pink area) negative space, because really the white area is the positive space—it houses the text and creates a border—and the pink is the lack of space.

It’s a good time to point out typography and it’s reliance on space, too. Leading, tracking and space between paragraphs and subtitles all play a part in the amount of resting area in a layout, which in turn influences mood, texture and balance. Overlapping lines of text created with negative leading will make a tense and possibly confusing statement about the design. Or, it could make a very bold and loud statement. Loosely tracked text can make a different statement, but can still be as frustrating to read. Orwhataboutreadingsomethingthathasnospacingbetweenthewords? Ah, beginning to see the power of space now?


I think Google is one of the most successful examples of using space to emphasize. There really isn’t anywhere else to go except to the search bar, which is a big reason why Google became so popular as a search tool. If an element is the only thing on the page, you can’t help but notice it.

You see this technique of using space to emphasize used a lot with business cards, where clear information communication is the primary purpose of the design. They are also successful examples of using space in an economical way—getting the most bang for your buck, so to speak. Space is at a premium with business cards because of their size, so how it is used must be carefully considered

Bugaboo Day Roma Map

There is not a lot of space in this map from Bugaboo Day Trips. It’s pretty visually overwhelming, but it’s likely intentional. It adds to the feeling of “so much to do, so little time” and accurately reflects city’s crowded layout.

What stands out here? Yes, the streets leading to Plazza del Poppio. Why? Negative space. It’s a resting place. It’s some peace from the chaos surrounding it.

Space is a powerful element. Use it wisely!

This has been the third installment in Real World Examples of the elements of design. Previously covered were line and shape. Up next are scale, texture, value, use of color and the color wheel and color theory.

Enjoyed this article? Subscribe to Creative Curio (What is RSS?). Subscriptions are available via email, too.