Why is spacing important?


Spacing in UI design is crucial for visual clarity and user experience. It groups elements based on proximity, establishing visual hierarchies and relationships that guide users to important content. Consistent spacing patterns increase readability, reducing eye strain by providing restful white space. It also facilitates information processing and memory recall by chunking information into manageable parts. Effective spacing, including line, letter, word, and paragraph spacing, adds a professional, trustworthy appearance to applications, ensuring content is accessible and appealing across various devices.

Detailed answer

The quote of the article's author about the importance of spacing in UI design.

The importance of spacing in UI is deeply rooted in gestalt principles. Our brains naturally group elements based on proximity. Appropriate spacing reinforces visual hierarchies and relationships between design elements, helping users quickly identify content patterns. By using consistent spacing patterns, you can guide users' attention to the most important content and create a logical flow within the interface.

Check out how Gestalt principles like proximity, similarity, and continuity were used for the redesign of the Code Academy website. 

Spacing aids in breaking down information into smaller, more manageable "chunks," which aligns with the concept of working memory in cognitive psychology. Better chunking makes information easier to process and recall.

Densely packed text can lead to eye fatigue. By providing sufficient white space around text and other elements, you give users' eyes a chance to rest and focus on the essential information. Optimized spacing helps users read for extended periods without discomfort. 

Well-balanced spacing adds professionalism to the application. It creates a clean and organized look, which builds trust and credibility with users. Your application looks polished and well-designed with proper spacing. It reflects positively on your brand.

Effective spacing involves methodical planning across several areas:

Typography spacing


Leading is the space between lines in a body text. If you have any type of paragraph or anything with multiple lines of text, you have to really pay attention to the leading.

Adequate line spacing prevents text from appearing crowded and helps guide the reader's eye from one line to the next.

Two variants of the Mark Twain's text with bigger and smaller leading.


Consider the following:

  • While there is no perfect line height, a good rule of thumb is to set it at approximately 150% of the font size.
  • Increase line spacing for smaller font sizes to maintain readability.
  • Balance measure, line height and font size as needed.


Tracking adjusts the spacing between letters evenly across the whole word.

Increasing letter spacing can improve letter and word recognition but use this technique sparingly, as excessive spacing can make words appear disjointed and difficult to read. Keep in mind:

  • Increase letter spacing slightly for headings or text in all caps to improve legibility.
  • Adjust letter spacing based on the font family and size to achieve the best results.

Two variants of the word "tracking" with a bigger and smaller tracking.



Kerning is the spacing between individual letters or characters. Unlike tracking, which adjusts the amount of space between the letters of an entire word in equal increments, kerning is focused on how type looks — creating readable text that’s visually pleasing.

The absence of fixed rules for kerning can be a designer's greatest advantage when working on creative applications with type, such as logo design or editorial work. In these contexts, kerning can be used to shape the appearance and tone of your design.

A few more kerning tips:

  • Break it down into pieces: Working with just two letters at a time is a great way to hone your eye. By isolating kerning pairs, you can more easily spot where adjustments are needed.
  • Memorize common troublemakers: Certain letter combinations — like letter pairs with diagonal arms or legs such as the A or V — typically need adjusting. Capital letters followed by lowercase letters are also potentially problematic kerning pairs.

An example of different kerning and how it changes the look of the type.


Word spacing

Pay attention to the space between words, as it affects the overall rhythm and flow of the text. Avoid excessive word spacing, as it can disrupt the natural flow of the text and make it harder to read.

Paragraph spacing

Adequate spacing between paragraphs provides much-needed visual breaks, structuring text into digestible chunks and making it easier to process. Consider the following:

  • Add sufficient space between paragraphs to indicate a new thought or section.
  • Use consistent paragraph spacing throughout the interface to maintain visual hierarchy.
    The WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) recommends that paragraph spacing should be at least 1.5 times larger than the regular line spacing. In other words, there is a blank line between paragraphs that's easily distinguished from a regular line break.
  • Experiment with different paragraph spacing values to find the right balance for your design.

Spacing in UI 


Padding is the space between the content or elements and the edge of a container or parent element. It is a form of white space that provides visual breathing room and separation between the content and its surrounding elements. 

Padding can be applied to various design elements, such as text blocks, images, buttons, or containers, to create visual balance, improve readability, and enhance the overall aesthetics of a design. Few guidelines to consider:

  • Maintain a consistent padding style and spacing across similar elements within the design to create a cohesive and harmonious layout. Consistency helps users understand the relationships and expectations between different elements.
  • Maintain a sense of balance and proportion between elements by ensuring consistent padding throughout the design. Avoid excessive padding that can create unnecessary white space or make the design appear disjointed.

The visualization of padding on the grey smartphone mockup.



They are also called grid gaps in web development. Gutters are the spaces between columns and rows. They separate content and provide white space within your design, giving it room to breathe. Elements may bridge gutters when they occupy multiple columns or rows, but as a general rule, an element should not end in a gutter.

The visualization of gutters.



Margin is the space or empty area surrounding the content within a layout. It is the clear gap between the edge of an element or a container and the adjacent elements or edges of the page. 

Margin provides visual breathing room and separation between different elements, helping establish hierarchy, improve readability, and create a balanced composition.

Best practices for setting margins:

  • Maintain consistent margin widths throughout a design to create visual harmony and coherence. 
  • In responsive design, adapt the margin values to accommodate different screen sizes and orientations. Test the layout across various devices to ensure margins remain appropriate and functional.
  • Consider accessibility guidelines when setting margins. Sufficient spacing improves readability for users with visual impairments or those using assistive technologies.

The visualization of margins.


Pro tip: Conduct user testing to gather feedback on spacing and adjust based on real user experiences. Use tools like Lyssna or UserTesting to collect insights on how users perceive and interact with your designs, focusing on readability and comprehension.

One more tip: Use a 4dp grid to align small elements like icons or typography within components.

Spacing in visual design composition 

Positive & negative space

Unlike other design elements that may or may not be present, space exists in every composition. Positive space includes the elements and areas of interest. Negative space is the area around these elements.

When applied correctly, negative space helps focus users' attention and contributes to a seamless user experience. In fact, users won't even notice these blank areas. Instead, they will be able to focus on the important points and achieve their goals easily. The trick is to find the right balance of negative and positive space for your intended purpose.

In print, negative space is the white space around text and between lines. In UI design, it can be any color, or even a subtle pattern or texture.

If negative space is an empty area around UI elements, positive space is the actual UI elements — the essence and the focus of the design. It can take any shape or form, geometric or organic, solid or outlined. Just as there's no light without darkness, there's no positive space without negative space — they're codependent.

The visualization of positive and negative space with a rabbit template.


❓Questions designers should ask themselves

By asking the right questions, designers can question their decisions, find areas to improve, make sure nothing is overlooked, and reduce mistakes, leading to better, more thoughtful designs.

  • Is the spacing consistent throughout the application?
  • Does the spacing create a clear visual hierarchy and grouping of related elements?
  • Is there enough white space to prevent visual clutter and reduce cognitive load?
  • Is spacing optimized for readability?
  • Does the spacing align with the brand's visual style and tone?
  • Does the spacing follow WCAG guidelines?

⚠️ Common mistakes to avoid

Learning from your mistakes is important, but many problems can indeed be predicted and avoided. Based on Cieden's collective expertise, we're sharing the most common ones.

  • Inconsistent spacing across different pages or components, which can create a disjointed and unprofessional appearance.
  • Lack of adequate white (negative) space, which can make the design feel cramped and overwhelming, hindering readability and usability.
  • Excessive white (negative) space, which can make the content feel disconnected and require unnecessary scrolling.
  • Not ensuring that spacing adapts well to different screen sizes and devices.

🛠️ Useful tools 

These tools will make your job easier and more effective.

  • Modular Scale Calculator – create a consistent and harmonious spacing system based on mathematical ratios. By using a modular scale, establish a hierarchy and rhythm in your designs.
  • CSS Grid Inspector –  visualize and fine-tune the spacing and alignment of elements within a grid layout. This tool will help you ensure precise and consistent spacing across different components and pages.

🤝 Credits

Our content combines the knowledge of Cieden’s designers with insights from industry influencers. Big thanks to all the influencers for sharing awesome content!

📚 Keep exploring 

Never stop growing. Explore resources thoughtfully handpicked by Cieden’s designers. 

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