Here is a wonderful article called "The Backward Step" by spiritual buddhist teacher Tara Brach in which she illuminates the difference between foreground awareness (e.g., sounds, sights, (images, type, headings, columns)), and a more open, spacious, and aware background awareness–the blank or "skylike" quality of the mind:
"...open-focused attention rests the brain. With a sustained pause from processing information—from memories, plans, thoughts about self—brain waves slow down into synchronous alpha. Our muscles relax, stress hormone levels are lowered, blood flow is redistributed. No longer in fight-or-flight reactivity, our body and mind become wakeful, sensitive, open, and at ease. "
Isn't that wonderful? It makes me think of the importance of white space in art and design, and how helpful and necessary it is for creating a meaningful experience. White space gives the eyes and mind more room to enjoy what is there.
Some industries deliberately use very little white space, e.g., in sports publications you'll sometimes find the space totally filled up, with nowhere to rest the eyes. The effect is excitement, a little confusion, and a blast for the eyes and the mind.
However, white space is almost always your friend when it comes to design : )