White space is not your enemy
July 24, 2013
I just ordered a book recommended to me by a friend helping me with some ideas for the cover of my new Christmas record. (A CD is still a “record,” as in “recording.” And, no, it is not difficult at all to sing “Let It Snow” with deep feeling on a 100-degree day.) The title grabbed me: White Space Is Not Your Enemy. The book is a guide to “graphic, web, and multi-media design.”
For 30 years as of September, part of ministry for me has been the monthly editing and designing of a little devotional magazine The Christian Appeal.
My brother launched the magazine in its present format 50 years ago, and one of his first design tips to me, the wet-behind-the-ears managing editor, was this: Don’t be afraid of white space. Modern readers drown in type.
It’s not just that modern attention spans are minuscule and most folks won’t read at all if reading takes much effort. For a supposedly literate society, we are frighteningly illiterate. (TV Guide doesn’t count.) No, it’s deeper than that.
A good bit of white space on your page or screen automatically gives value to, focuses your eye on, the relatively few items that win a place there.
Oh, you can get a bunch of words on a page if you load it up, shovel them in, decrease the font size, increase the kerning, cram them in so tight that words will leak out on the floor if you don’t belt the magazine shut with a rubber band. And guess what? People won’t read it. More white space. Fewer words. And the words get read. And they become more precious as communication happens.
“White space is not your enemy.” I wonder what this truth might mean in, say, art, or music, or . . .
How important is “white space” in public speaking, or, I hate to mention this, preaching? Ouch! Sometimes less is more.
What about teaching? I’ve had the chance to lecture some college English students. I know the pressure. So much material. So little time. It’s so hard, but so important, to stop, slow down, shut up for a minute. Think together. Give and take together. White space.
God knew we needed white space in our lives for life itself to blossom and be rich and full and joyful, creative and productive. That’s what the Sabbath commandment is about. Time to rest. Time to let God “re-create” us. We desperately need some “white space.” We need to stop “doing” for a moment so that, when we’re back to the “doing,” what we do will be worth something. And worth doing. And maybe even done with some joy.
You might run with this “white space” idea a bit and see how a little more if it might be a blessing in other areas of your life. It might occasionally involve using the OFF switch on your cell phone or iPad, for example. Just a thought.
Now, let me see if I can re-format this column so all the words will fit. What? White space, you say? Well, that was tacky of you. But you’re right. Cutting stuff out to get that precious space is really hard. And worthwhile.
Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at