AChangeInValue Aug 2nd, 2007

The French philosopher Jacques Derrida wrote that type cannot function without silent marks and spaces. In digital design it is very important to watch every letter put on the screen just as it is in print. There are many rules and guidelines to follow when working with text to optimize readability. I ask why then do I find myself intrigued by the Ocean 13 intro and many other design genres that ignore the fundamental idea of putting a whitespace after every word?

AChangeInValueOne of the simplest rules of typography or even grade school grammar is inserting a space after every word. Rules, of course, are made to be broken. One of the biggest design companies to do this is Graphis. They base their whole identity around words that run together. The word space is denoted by a change in color or value instead of whitespace. From their publications to their website, you can find this theme throughout.

This idea has been puked onto the web in full force. Both amateur and professional sites string together words, completely ignoring whitespace. While this is not a technique that should be used in large paragraphs, it has some great benefits when used in moderation. It brings the viewers eye to this text, it gives a nice, soft, comfortable emotion when done right, and Apple Inc. does it. White space is not always needed. To prove my point, look at some original manuscripts written by monks. They completely ignored spaces. While this is not optimal for readability, it did serve its purpose. It saved space on expensive vellum. While we as designers aren’t really in the market to save space, most of the time we are looking for different solutions to attract attention just by altering type. It seems there are three ways to achieve this technique.

The first method is to simple capitalize the first letter of each word. While I think this is the least successful of the three, I do think it does a very nice job of attracting attention the the text.


The next solution is a value change. This is done very commonly in graphis magazine. They will have a whole page with headlines that only consist of grayscale value changes for each word.


A shift in hue is the final path to take. It seems that this has been the hot trend. A change in hue gives the headlines a very bold appeal and forces the viewer to read both words separately.

All these techniques seem to be the strongest when the phrase only contains two words. I can rarely see an application when readability is at the forefront of a block of text. However, if this were used as an effort to create a texture or pattern while preserving some separation, this may be a viable asset. These methods can also be combined to give even more emphasis to the text. I think this is a good design solution for clean design. There is no better way to be tidy than to get rid of something. Why not go and get rid of whitespace? Just be careful. Don’tgooverbored.