The Japanese word Ma confounds reason. Online you will find multiple translations, some of which contradict one another. There is a general consensus that can be summed up as the gap between objects can be as important as the objects themselves. This is useful to bear in mind when designing an email marketing campaign.
Given all the information you want to convey to those on your email marketing lists, you might think that leaving a lot of empty space is a waste. However, the benefits of white space, the English translation of Ma, in western graphic art has been recognised for at least a century. The classic Volkswagen advert, Think Small, which tested the limits of white space usage, was first published 60 years ago, so there’s no excuse for giving into the urge to cram as much as possible into a marketing email.
Email marketing templates allow a great deal of flexibility and who can fail to be tempted by the ease at which one can increase the size of an image. After all, it will be reduced in size if the recipient views it on a pad or mobile phone. It is, unfortunately, a trap, one that many willingly fall into.
Ma has multiple purposes. Whilst it might seem counterintuitive, you can use it to frame an image or a headline. It enables the item to stand out. Without distractions and clutter it will be much more prominent. Framing is nothing more than a way to emphasise a separation.
For one thing it doesn’t have to be white nor does it have to be a single, even colour. It can be anything that will be ignored so a blurred image where nothing can be distinguished can be white space. However, it can be tricky to pull off so care needs to be exercised in order that readers don’t get pulled towards it.
One of the major benefits of white space is that it lends itself to being a subtle influence. Readers of a marketing email might be wary as they know you are selling something. Clever use of what is, in essence, nothing is difficult to guard against.
Despite being insubstantial, Ma directs the eye. There are simple ways of using gaps between text or objects to pull a person towards your CTA button. Little white space on one side of a marketing email, steadily opening out towards the right margin, will direct the eye. Place your button there.
White space needs to work for you. It’s no good inserting gaps just because you’ve run out of ideas. There has to be at least as much reason for including it as an image, if not more so.
Ma requires a purpose. The accepted definition says that it can have equal importance as text and images. The fact that it is conditional means that you have to work at it. It’s back to splitting email marketing lists to see what works best for you.