Some days I wish this was a universally applicable rule. Want some ice cream? Why not a double scoop! Need a day off? Take two!
But one area this rule is especially true is when it comes to whitespace.
Recently I gave a talk for students with tips on how to land a design job. Naturally I spent a lot of time talking about portfolios. I also talked about resumes. Little did I know that this was going to turn into a critiquing session. I’ve since looked at a bunch of their resumes and portfolios, and one thing that consistently came up is the amount of whitespace (or lack there of).
So why is whitespace important, and when do you know you have enough?
Imagine this. You’ve gone on a 3 hour hike through the forest. All of a sudden, you hit a high wall and the only way to continue is to climb over.
This is how your eyes feel every time you hit a wall of text. A document that is hard to navigate and densely packed with text. Let your content breathe.
Whitespace between sections makes it easy for the eyes to skim the content and get a general idea of what it contains. For resumes, this is useful since most employers don’t have much time to read everything. Also, with the age of the internet, there is a ton of information available to us. People consume information in smaller chunks and tend to spend less time reading. Designing for this helps the reader get a general idea of what you’ve written, and decide where to spend their time.
Whitespace between letters, words, and lines in a paragraph make it easier and quicker for your reader’s eyes to recognize the shapes that make up the letters, and for your brain to interpret them into words, helping the reader read faster. When there is too much text, especially at close proximity, people tend to get overwhelmed and give up reading. It becomes a strain on the eyes physically, and a mental strain to interpret what is written.
Whatever amount you think is enough, double it.
Yes, double. This rule seems excessive, but most people grossly underestimate the amount of space they need to make their content readable. It takes some practice and experience to figure out the right amount, so in the meantime, just double the amount of space, then scale back a bit if the space is ridiculously large.
My personal opinion is that there is never enough whitespace. Adding space gives your eyes room to breathe and makes for a pleasant reading experience. In the case of a resume, it becomes easier to read and will stand out in a good way.
For content, that is. Adding whitespace will force you to decrease the amount of content and only include what is necessary to get your point across. This is especially important for resumes. Employers don’t have a lot of time to look at and read everything on a resume. Only include the important information that relates to the job you are applying to.
This isn’t strictly about whitespace, but helps make a document easy to read. A lot of documents use black text against a black background. This creates a harsh, high-contrast environment which is hard on the eyes. Decreasing the contrast between the text colour and background makes it easier to read. Pure black does not exist in nature and is harsh for the eyes, especially against a white background. One trick is to use a very dark gray, and adding a tint to the text (blue is a favourite of mine).
In fact, the text that you are currently reading, is not pure black. Even though it looks black, it is actually set to 80% opacity which makes it a very dark gray. This makes the content “softer” on the eyes (for lack of a better word).