How S P A C E Affects Your Message

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.

Overview

In this article we examine the way space impacts communication by taking a look at billboard designs around Los Angeles. Examining the use of space + billboards will help you communicate your message clearly in all of your design work. Space is an essential principle for communicating your message clearly. How you shape your design with the available space will affect the way people interpret and act upon your message.

Space Drives Impact in Seconds

In a matter of seconds your design should get your message across and influence your audience to act on it. This rule strongly applies to billboards, as the audience is driving by, they only have a mere seconds to interpret your design’s message.

Your designs should be just as impactful: in seconds you’ve influenced the direction your audience takes to get to their destination. The relationship between the type and the surrounding space allows us to quickly read the sign and make split second decisions about the direction we want to go.

A Message Lost in Space

If you pack too many elements in the design, your message will be completely lost. Take for example this sign for Canton Food.

Canton Food Co. Billboard design. Photo retrieved from Yelp.

The main message is lost because of the lack of negative space in the design. Dissecting the design further, you see that Canton Food is a restaurant and grocery store open to the public. However, most drivers won’t have that chance. The overcrowded design created with color blocking, type, and varying fonts, paid no respect to space, and therefore the message was lost.

If your design is good, the single impression made in seconds will allow your audience to take action and make decisions about your product. Timing is everything, and space supports the message by getting it across clearly with minimal exposure time.

Space in Design Curates Your Message

One of the great examples of billboard designs around LA are the Chiquitas Bananas billboards. They use ample space and bold impactive typography with playful messaging on each billboard. Thanks to the designer’s respect for space, the message comes across clearly and the product stays in the mind of the audience long after driving by.

We Are Bananas Billboard located in Hollywood on the corner of Sunset and Vine. Design by Wieden + Kennedy. Photo retrieved from dailybillboardblog.com.

The message is clear and the design is minimal: the maximized element is space. It makes a bold statement with only 3 elements: typography; photography; and most of all space. When you compare the amount of negative space with the elements present, the words, the underline, and the banana, you realize that most of this design is made up of negative space.

In this instance, the Chiquitas logo mark was put in the middle of an empty yellow space, making it look like a banana. The main message seems to serve as a reminder of sorts — “Hey, bananas!” Your sense of taste is provoked by the use of a familiar banana-flavor-yellow, and a giant banana (product imagery) to stimulate your brain and your appetite, well done Wieden + Kennedy Design team 👏👏👏.

Through the use of 3 design elements, Wieden + Kennedy Design managed to imprint an image of what their product looks like, feels like, and tastes like in one drive-by — all thanks to space.

Keys to Designing with Space

  1. Respect & Design with Space: the proper use of space will translate your message faster.
  2. Minimal Messaging: Use the least amount of words necessary to get your message across. Anything more is overcrowding, and anything less is unclear, in either case the message will be lost.
  3. Small Exposure Time Big Impact: Give the design breathing room so you can create large enough messaging that creates a big enough impact to influence your audiences’ next decision.
  4. Design with Your Goal in Mind: When drafting / designing / revising, think to yourself, “What do I want my audience to do after they see this design?” Does your design or draft satisfy that goal? Ask your peers, friends and family, “What would you do after seeing this design?”

Of all of these keys to designing with space, which one resonates with you the most? Comment below with your experiences, concerns, and feedback.

Happy designing ✏️

Article by Matheo Cadena

Matheo is a graphic designer with a background in user experience design and is currently working as a brand strategist. He joined AIGA Los Angeles as a Board Member because he appreciates design in all of it’s expressions and enjoys working with the design community. Connect with Matheo via LinkedIn or Instagram.

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