One day last summer I was invited to one a advertising luncheon. It was for small businesses who use postcard decks and direct mail advertising. There was an advertising expert there, we’ll call him Bob. Bob asked the audience to critique a piece of a participants print advertising, no one really offered anything. So, he called on me. I told Bob that I thought the design was a little confusing and there were a lot of competing ideas. The headline wasn’t really clear and it might be more clear if there was a little less going on visually. Bob, wearing his blue gabardine blazer with gold buttons, tossled loafers, and pleated khaki pants said, “You’re one of those ‘white space guys’ aren’t you?” I said, “I guess it depends. I definitely like clean design. When it works our clients do well by white space.” He said, “Well, I’ll get to why you’re wrong in a minute.”
Bob explained that white space isn’t interesting to people. That if businesses want to succeed and generate lots of leads from direct mail they need designs with pictures and lots of visual stimulation to stand out. “Okay,” I thought. “That or maybe they just need this fat sack of crap in his cheap blazer telling them how things are supposed to look.”
Today, I wonder, if maybe Bob wasn’t on to something.
Tamara Krinsky has perhaps the most elegant idea to help reduce your consumption of natural resources: set your word document’s margin settings as narrow as possible before you send it to the printer. The goal here is to save the planet we all live on.
According to Tamara’s site, the mission of Change the Margins is pretty simple: encourage adoption of wider printing margins on a grand scale. To accomplish this, the campaign currently has three goals:
1. Convince Microsoft to change the default margin settings in Microsoft Word to .75 on all sides. The more convenient it is for people to change their habits, the better chance there is that they will actually do so.
2. Persuade five corporations to officially sanction wider margins for all company documents. In this way, people will get used to seeing documents with this formatting as the standard, as opposed to the exception. Never underestimate the power of peer pressure.
3. Challenge five universities to adopt wider margin settings as the standard for their students and faculty, and include this information in their course guidelines.
At Penn State University’s Park campus the “Mueller Policy Paper #1: Reduce Standard Margin Settings” showed how PSU could save 72 acres of forest and over $120,000/year by reducing the default margin settings campus wide.
On a national scale, that’s estimated to be about $400,000,000 per year.
You’re probably looking at this page and wondering, “what the hell are these guys doing advocating for less white space and narrower margins?”
First, you’re not reading a printed document, these virtual margins don’t waste paper. Second, we’re huge fans of saving our clients money, and we’re even bigger fans of elegance. A designer should be able to create an effective design in the pursuit of creating he most economical and efficient outcome possible.
There are some clients who convey a sense of affluence through abundant use of whitespace. How else can you as a designer convey that idea without being wasteful? Elegance is defined as nothing missing and nothing extraneous. Can’t too much whitespace be just as extraneous as too much type?
Also, isn’t this idea that prestige is found in massive amounts of whitespace becoming trite? Can’t we as designers find inventive ways to communicate our clients’ ideology? Can’t we do it and use less paper?
Maybe I’m not such a “white space guy” where the planet is concerned. Either way, it’s time to narrow the margins . . . and definitely avoid advertising experts.