Negative Space in Logo Design

Negative Space in Logo Design

In the field of graphic design, logos are a specialist art form in themselves. Created to encapsulate the brand in the most economical way, logos can convey incredibly complex messages in a compact area.

The use of color, font style and imagery come together to make a compelling image of the brand using very little space and will often serve as the main identifying image for the company or brand that it represents.

One of the ways in which logos are able to convey a depth of meaning much larger than one would think from the space they consume is through the use of negative space. This technique has added another layer of subtlety and complexity to some iconic logo designs.

What is negative space?

Simply put, negative space is the area that’s not directly involved in the coloration or text of a logo. If you have a black logo on a white background, the white in the background is what’s referred to in graphic design as negative space.

At its most simple, negative space allows you to make sense of the positive image

This negative space always serves a purpose in a design. The designer will choose a color or shade that provides compliment or contrast to the logo itself and either marries the image with its background or gives it something against which it can really stand out. However, some designers use negative space in a different way. Rather than simply providing a good background for their logo design, the negative space is employed to reveal another image. Almost like an optical illusion, the negative space element of the design may not be the first thing to jump out at the viewer but once seen, it becomes an intrinsic part of the design.

Classic examples of negative space design

One of the most well-known examples of negative space in the design of logos is in the brand mark of the shipping company Federal Express, or FedEx as they are most widely known. Their simple, eye-catching orange-and-purple logo that spells out the name of the company in a simple sans serif font is eye-catching enough and instantly recognizable.

However, what many people may miss in the design is an additional level of branding in the negative space. In the designer’s chosen bulky font, the capital E and lower-case x create an unmistakeable forward-pointing arrow in the negative space. The arrow in the logo, used for a firm that stakes its reputation on moving people’s cargo forward and being direct and straightforward, only adds to the image of the brand.

It seems there are countless ways to get a wine glass or bottle into the negative space of a logo for a makes wine its business. Taking two things that characterize your business and blending them in a logo that utilizes negative space offers a great way of showing both sides of the company.

brand union logo nbc logo wwf logo adobe logo girl scouts logo vaio logo handprint logo tree logo negative space logo royal theater logo

Conclusion

Often overlooked, and understandably so, the subtleties of creating optical illusions in negative space as part of logo design is a powerful way of adding a secondary message to the positive aspects of the logo. When done well, the positive and negative working in harmony help create a more compelling final image.

Tom Reynolds works at SAS London, the digital marketing agency. Tom focuses on researching new trends in digital design and employer branding strategies. With his experience Tom improves company’s website’s visitor flow and overall image.

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(6) responses

Cassandra

July 1, 2013

Nice examples. I’ve loved the girl scouts logo ever since I was a girl scout. :-)

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Tom Reynolds

July 2, 2013

Thanks Cassandra, a couple of our favourites have to be the WWF and the 1234 Club. We see these negative spaces in logos every day yet we are so used to them we often pass them by without even realising.

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minas

August 8, 2013

great examples, I saw this design for vapour lab, looks cool too, maybe you can add it to your list:

http://www.vapourlab.co.uk

They are an e juices manufacturer for electronic vapourizers, and I like the way they have used negative space for the mixing flask and test tube :)

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Edward Bynes

September 14, 2013

Now a days every 5 out of 10 logos are based on negative space. Somehow designer manages to get some inspiration from legend logos. But we can see a very few who are innovating the new ideas.

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Paul

October 7, 2013

Really love your useful article on negative space!! Good luck….

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bijutoha

January 24, 2014

I know it is good-post for me because I love to make logo design from my own creativity. Your every steps makes me inspired so. Thanks again.

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