Can you have too much white space in your graphic design?

Whether it’s a website, ad, brochure or billboard, clients often want to use all the space you have available. After all, they’re paying for it – right? Well, yes, they’re paying for it. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to fill the whole space!

It’s no secret that a smart use of white space in your design can help communication a message in an uncluttered way. But can you have too much white space? No you can’t…  and here’s my personal evidence.

I was walking through Times Square while in Manhattan last month. The area is covered with advertising. The ONLY ad I actually remember was for a Louis C.K. HBO special, on the Walgreens 7th Avenue street-level billboard.

I’m sure it caught my attention because of its simple use of white space – and a lot of it! Take a look:

Use of white space in design

The Times Square billboard area at Walgreens is among the most expensive outdoor advertising in the country, with over 1,600,000 daily impressions. Yet this particular design is mostly empty! Is it wasted space? Absolutely not, because it’s the only ad I remember from my entire NYC trip.

So the next time a client thinks you’re “wasting space” on one of your designs, show them this photo and tell them you don’t want to waste space by using it all up! 


How to fix Aperture 3.4 upgrade crashing

I just updated Apple Aperture to version 3.4. Opening an existing 3.3 library caused it to update successfully to version 3.4 — but it would not open! Each time it would cause Aperture to crash. The fix? Delete Aperture’s preference file; there was no need to reinstall the Aperture software application.

Here’s how to locate and delete the Aperture preference file:

1. In the Finder, select the Go menu — then hold down the Option key. You’ll see the normally hidden user Library. Select it.

2. Now open the Preferences folder. Locate the file and toss it in the Trash.

3. Reopen Aperture. That should fix the problem.


Holding down the Option key will reveal
the normally hidden user Library.

Global Smartphone Penetration at 27% and Rising

Although smartphones seem to be everywhere, they’re used by only 27% of all mobile phone users.

Why it’s important

There is huge upside potential in the mobile space: design/development of mobile websites and apps. At the very least, make sure your websites can accommodate smaller size displays and touchscreen user interfaces.

Global smartphone penetration

Source: Mobile Software: The Clash of Ecosystems,, November 2011. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

Speaker John Boehner’s Poorly Designed “PowerPoint” about the Debt Ceiling Agreement

When Speaker John Boehner announced that a deal was reached last evening to raise the debt ceiling, he issued what’s being called a “PowerPoint document” to summarize the framework. (Microsoft PowerPoint)

Setting aside the merits of the content, I was struck by the truly awful design in a document describing such an important deal. I realize it was done hastily, but he’s the Speaker of the House! The pages hurt the eyes just to look at it! Here’s a slide from the 7-page document:

Boehner PowerPoint

Art direction thought process?

  • This is an important message: Make the headlines ALL-CAPS. Hmmm… not enough emphasis. Let’s also enclose the slide title in a box. That will tell people it’s extra, extra important.
  • Wait! The whole message is important. Make ALL the copy bold. Helvetica-Neue Bold. Everything.
  • Oh, there’s lots of important copy. Lots of words. We need to save space in order to jam all these important words on each slide. We’ll have to use a condensed typeface. Switch to Helvetica-Neue Condensed Bold.
  • Don’t forget, this is important!

The worst thing? It wasn’t even produced with Microsoft PowerPoint, an application not known for its design tools. It was produced on a Mac using Apple Keynote — the same thing Steve Jobs uses for his world-class presentations. Go figure.

Speaker Boehner Keynote on a Mac


Full presentation:

Why I Completely Redesigned My Website previous website design

Previous design

As a technology consultant and website developer, I’ve had a business website since the late-1990s. My site started out as simple and straightforward: it identified my company, my services, and how to contact me.

Over time, I redesigned and updated the site as my services, web capabilities, software tools, bandwidth, and expectations changed. My main website authoring tools were BBEdit, Adobe Photoshop, Microsoft Word, Macromedia GoLive and then eventually Adobe Dreamweaver.

But about two years ago, I noticed something: I didn’t really like my site any longer. Why not? It was always out of date. Why was it always out of date? Despite my own professional expertise, the site itself was very time-consuming (slow) to revise.

I concluded there were three basic problems to address:

  1. My site’s content was stagnant.
  2. My domain didn’t rank very high in searches for my targeted keywords.
  3. Most important, the site didn’t really showcase my true capabilities!

It was time to eat my own dogfood. In other words, my new website should accurately demonstrate my ability to create websites for others.

I began the site redesign by listing these simple goals:

  • Show my Expertise. The best way to show my expertise would be to help others solve their own technology, communication and social media problems. And I should provide these timely solutions on my site. For free.
  • Keep the Site Up-To-Date. Although I use Adobe Dreamweaver to build custom websites for clients, the easiest way for me to add my own new content quickly would be to switch to a blogging platform. Once established, adding new posts is quick and easy. I selected a self-hosted WordPress installation.
  • Laser-Focused SEO. After much research, I decided to use the Thesis Theme for my new WordPress installation. I was able to quickly mold Thesis into the design I wanted. But most important, Thesis has excellent search engine optimization tools baked right in. This would definitely increase my keyword search ranking.
  • Take the Personal Approach. Rather than simply talking about my company, I wanted to talk about what I personally bring to each consulting and website design assignment. I would do this by example — by helping others with their problems.

It’s taken a bit of time to build the content base of my newly designed site. But in the 18+ months since I switched over, my objectives are being achieved. My site is up to date because it’s so much easier to revise! It ranks way higher in keyword searches than it ever did before. And I truly feel it reflects the value I can provide to my clients — which ultimately has translated into more business leads.

Now when someone asks me “What’s the best way to backup my computer?” — or “How do I set up Gmail on my iPhone?” — I just tell them: The answer is on!

How To Create a Sliding Timeline Graphic in a PowerPoint Presentation

What’s the single most common presentation mistake? Content overload!

Trying to jam too much information on a single slide creates two problems:

  1. Too much content makes it difficult for the audience to understand all the displayed information at once.
  2. In order to jam all that stuff on a single slide, you’ve got to shrink it down – often too small to actually read!

One obvious solution is to break up your content into multiple slides – and most of the time that’s the right thing to do. But what if you have an image to display that’s too big for one slide, but you don’t want to just chop it up into pieces? You’d really like to show a portion at a time – and then show its continuity from the current slide to the next one. A timeline of events is a good example.

Instead of an abrupt slide change, how can you subtly show that two slides appear to be connected like one really wide-screen slide? Here’s how to do it in PowerPoint or Keynote.

In this example, I’ll display an image of the Dow Jones Industrial average graphed over time in a line chart. Then I’ll slide it from right to left, indicating the movement of time. I’m using a graphic image that’s too wide to fit on a single PowerPoint slide. Here’s how to handle the graphic:

1. Insert the full-size image on a slide.

2. Adjust the image proportionally to the desired height. Don’t worry about the width yet.

3. Position the image so the right portion is hidden by hanging over the right side of the slide.

Extra-wide graphic spills over the right side of the slide

4. Duplicate this slide.

5. On the duplicated slide, move the graphic to the left, hiding the part already seen on the previous slide — hanging it out over the left side of the slide. This is where you want the graph to finish.

Finishing location

6. Select a Push transition for this second slide (how you want this slide to appear). In this example, make it push From Right.

7. Now click the slideshow button.

You’ll see these two slides displayed as a slideshow. The graphic from the first slide will appear to slide left as the second slide is shown, revealing the rightmost part of the graphic.

Here are three examples:


Download sample PowerPoint document.

Steve Jobs must not be a runner

It’s well known that Steve Jobs loves music. If he were a runner, he’d no doubt listen to an iPod as he ran around Palo Alto. And if he wore an iPod, he’d certainly use his own company’s Apple-branded earphones.

But Steve Jobs must not be a runner. Why do I say that? Because the Apple-branded earphones are dreadful — especially for runners.

They sound okay, but they’re extremely uncomfortable to wear and they don’t stay in your (at least my) ears! When you perspire, you are constantly pushing them back into your ears due to their terrible “user interface.”

If Steve went out to run wearing his own company’s earphones, he’d take them off and throw them in the garbage. With great velocity!

Yurbuds should be your buds

I used to wish Apple would design earphones with as much thought and consideration as all their other fantastic products, save (all) their mouse designs.

But now, after trying countless third-party earphones, I’ve finally found the one product that actually works: comfort plus perfect fit — they don’t fall out no matter how much you run and perspire! Period.

They’re called Yurbuds: simple soft rubber add-ons for your Apple (or other) earphones.

Yurbuds are comfortable and they stay in your ears.

Trust me on this one. I’m a runner.