As a young designer, you often have complex ideas and may add clutter to your work to get your point across. You lack the confidence and schooling it takes to make educated decisions and probably do not understand balance or rhythm yet. I routinely attend talks via Creative Mornings, and recently had the pleasure of hearing Scott Wilson from Minimal Design speak. Scott explained that cluttered design is actually an under-designed piece. A final design is a result of a subtractive process and only the necessary elements should survive.
White space is actually referring to the negative space between words and pictures; it does not necessarily have to be white. Negative space allows the work to breathe and directs your eye toward the content. Less clutter makes it easier to convey a message, and communication should always take priority over design.
Often a designer will receive feedback from a client to “make it bigger.” An untrained mind believes that “bigger” is easier to understand and will communicate their idea more clearly. I included an example of a quote by Italian designer Massimo Vignelli below. It is very apparent that the first “bigger” layout does not communicate Vignelli’s message as well as the second layout, which utilizes ample white space. Without a margin, the eye has difficulty focusing, and you can see that the message has taken a backseat to this design.
The difference between a thoughtful, yet simple layout and an empty page can be hard for some to perceive at first. A seasoned designer will begin with a clear purpose. He still begins the design process with many ideas, but the final piece should be boiled down to the purposeful essence. Valuable design takes time because it requires organization and obsessive detailing. E. F. Schumacher said it best: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”
My advice to young designers is to refrain from decorating and be mindful that communication is the bottom line. Well-executed design will not require instruction or explanation. In fact, a good design often goes unnoticed because it is meant to carry the message rather than BE the message.