Web design and “seeing” space

Escher optical illusion
Escher explored the concept of negative space

Visual designers see things differently, a matter, I suppose, both of instinct and of training.  An example is the concept of “positive” and “negative” space.  A designer looking at an object may be comprehending not only the object itself  (positive space) but the space around it (negative space).  In what looks to many of us like empty space, a designer finds significance in form which they can balance against “positive space” in a meaningful way.  This is a complex idea that need not be fully understood to get something of value from it.

In general, negative space
works to support the positive “image” in any given area
(also called the picture plane).


Using red and black with white as an occasional accent allows the type (text) to stand out and the negative space to be just as interesting as the positive.


The FedEx logo cleverly uses negative space inorder to create arrow between the ‘E’ and the ‘x’.

Breathing Room

In order to create an aesthetically pleasing grouping of elements, illustrations, navigation, a digital designer must allow appropriate space around objects.  I like to think of it as “breathing room.”  Multiple items arranged close together can be viewed as one unit.  A photo gallery achieves this effect.  The trick is to keep the outside or top edges in alignment and allow enough negative space between the images.  That “breathing room” allows the eye to distinguish the arrangement as a whole.

In the end, it is about balance.  Every item in a grouping needs its own space.  Every grouping needs space as well.  In a web page this grouping and space is often determined by the hierarchy or the importance of the content.

UK Grazia - visual guide
UK Grazia – visual guide

An awareness of “space” can be helpful to the designer when placing elements, images or doing illustrations.

teamSimon is a Sydney based digital designer. He is the Director of a boutique digital design studio, Bailey Street Design located in the vibrant inner west suburb of Newtown.  Simon studied graphic design at Shillington College and specialises in web design for small and medium size businesses.  Simon and his team (Toby the studio dog) are passionate about visual communication in the digital environment


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