But the front page of a recent Sports Monday section screamed, “READ ME!” And so I did. For one thing, the headline, “A Son Calls His Mother,” grabbed me. Right away, this mother of a son was hooked, knowing the piece had to be about something sad, something tragic.
I didn’t have to navigate ads or any other articles on the page. In fact, there was nothing else demanding my attention, nowhere else for me to look. For on this front page of Sports Monday on April 27th, white space dominated.
The article stood alone. It’s a short piece about a 32-year-old former football player whose autopsy revealed he suffered from CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a degenerative disease caused by repeated blows to the head. He took his own life soon after telephoning his mother.
Now, maybe this was a printing error, though I saw no evidence of this elsewhere in the paper. All I saw was screaming white space that forced me to focus on the one thing, the only thing, the editor wanted me to see: that story.
Using white space as a design element isn’t haphazard or random. If you work with a good graphic designer, he or she will recommend how and where to use this “negative space” on whatever it is you’re having designed.
As a reader, I can say that white space, when designed well, does the following:
- Elevates and illuminates the copy or images surrounded by it.
- Makes me focus on that copy or those images.
- Draws my attention immediately to such content.
- Heightens the importance of that content.
- Sets copy/imagery apart on the page in a way that makes it more memorable.
- Organizes my reading behavior for me.
- Packs a wallop.
I can’t remember having seen one article take up the entire page of a major newspaper before. I’ve seen (and written about) full-page ads, but never a piece of journalism that was this powerful.
When I went online at www.nyt.com to see that day’s paper, I didn’t know what to expect: would the digital page be replicated as I saw it in newsprint? No. Neither version (there’s a new app for viewing the newspaper) on the web site resembled what I held in my hand. They included two photos – one of the mother in the story and a second one showing her son as he fed his infant son a bottle.
In the digital version, these photos enhanced the article. But they didn’t carry the power or convey the gravitas, the human tragedy, that the printed page did.
One compelling story in a sea of white space. It made me look. You can’t duplicate that on a screen.
© 2015 Margie Dana