The visible elements of a slide often receive the most
focus. But you need to pay equal attention to how
much space you leave open. This is often referred to as
whitespace, negative space, or clear space.
Whitespace isn’t necessarily white; it refers to the areas
of the slide left unused. It could be the empty areas that
separate elements from one another or the drama cre-
ated when an element is set in vast amounts of space.
The book so far has discussed the role of hierarchy, flow,
and proximity, but until now, the role of whitespace has
been merely implied.
Inexperienced presenters often think whitespace is
expendable—especially when they need to incorporate
unwieldy amounts of content that’s “too important” to
be distilled or simplified despite its cumbersome density.
After all, whitespace by definition carries no informa-
tion, so what’s the harm in filling it up? The harm is that
audiences find these slides difficult to comprehend.
Whitespace is as much an element of a slide as titles,
bullets, and diagrams. In large part, the use or misuse of
whitespace determines a slide’s effectiveness.
Whitespace: Getting Visual Breathing Room
Generally, any slide that needs to sacrifice whitespace to
make room for content is packed too tightly. When a slide
is expected to present more information than it can com-
fortably hold, it is no longer the right tool for the job.
Ask yourself, “What can I take away that won’t change
the meaning?” or “Where can I split the content into more
than one slide?” Keep in mind that a slide’s value is deter-
mined not by the amount of information it contains, but
by how clearly it communicates its message.
It’s okay to have clear space—clutter is
a failure of design.