Ever heard of the term “less is more?” Well, with regards to white space definitely keep this mind, but think of this terminology with regard to content on the page. So less content = more white space, which in turn = better layout.
Let’s talk about why having white space makes a better layout. (And oh yeah, white space doesn’t need to be white!) White space is not about the absence of images or text, but more the importance of the content on the page. It draws you in to the content that is there. It is not a feast for the eyes, rather a focus on the words or other imagery on the page. White space provides a much needed visual rest. Ever wish a web site or brochure you are viewing had less stuff crammed into every little pocket of space? Layouts with no breathing room have little hierarchy of information and show little importance of content.
Think of white space like real estate, or landscape design more specifically. The main feature of the landscape is your house or office building. Place some feature items such as rose bushes or trees in specific visual areas. Then line the rest with grass or mulch. I might be over-simplifying this analogy, but would you attempt to fill your entire yard with with shrubs? Every design needs some breathing room! Otherwise, there is clutter and simply no focus.
Practice using white space in your next print or web design. Your content (and readers) will thank you for it!