A great logo packs a punch — it leaves a real impression on anyone who sees it, inspiring customer confidence and driving sales. While there are certainly many ways to add that extra creative oomph to your logo, if you want a design that is memorable and clever, you might consider following the lead of companies like Toblerone and NBC, and trying out a negative space design.
What is negative space?
In design, negative space is the background or area around the subject in an image, while positive space is the subject itself. Simply put, negative space is empty and positive space is filled. In the Toblerone logo, negative space creates a bear in the peak of the mountain. In NBC’s logo, the body of the network’s famous peacock is created by negative space around the multicolored feathers.
On the most basic level, negative space emphasizes and defines the edges of the positive space — it shows us where one shape ends and another begins. But negative space can serve more than just this simple practical purpose when it’s used thoughtfully. As many creative logo designers have shown, the “empty” areas of a design can be as dynamic as the areas that are “filled.” Just take a look at the famed FedEx logo.
It’s just the company name, right? Actually, the white negative space between the orange “E” and “X” is shaped like an arrow. Yes, all of these years that arrow has been hiding in plain sight thanks to the clever use of negative space.
Types of negative space logos
1. Hidden image
Negative space is often used to incorporate subliminal images into logos, like the FedEx logo’s arrow. The sly inclusion of secret elements makes a seemingly straightforward design a little bit more interesting. Check out the Hershey’s Kisses logo and you’ll find that the negative space between the “K” and the “I” is shaped like a sideways Hershey’s Kiss candy. Go ahead, tilt your head to the left and you’ll see it.
The World Wildlife Fund’s panda logo is an optical illusion. The panda’s white head and torso are just open shapes formed using negative space. But the black positive space provides the viewer with enough information to make sense of the image — through a phenomenon called the law of closure, our brains fill in the gaps and we see the curves of the panda’s back and head even though they aren’t actually there.
You can use those empty areas around and between letters to stylize text. The white “S” in the USA television network logo is actually curved negative space between the black “U” and “A.”
4. Double entendre
A double entendre design highlights multiple aspects of a company’s identity by carving out a hidden element into positive space. The Guild of Food Writers logo is a black fountain pen nib, a nod to their profession. But, look a little closer and you’ll notice that the negative space that forms the tip of the nib is shaped like a spoon.
Benefits of a negative space logo
1. Boost brand recognition by engaging viewers
Negative space logos are so powerful because they grab and hold our attention. They call for participation, inviting the viewer to engage with them, study them and uncover subtle layers of meaning. Logos should be memorable — as a business owner, you want people to make that mental association between your brand and the types of services or products that you offer. A design that customers have spent a few seconds studying (as opposed to just glancing at) is a design that sticks in their minds.
2. Simple but creative
One thing you’ll notice about all of the above logos is how modest the designs are — they consist of only a few shapes and colors. Yet each one of them is visually compelling in its own way. Consumers respond to and remember simple logos. When you maximize negative space, you can design a logo that is simultaneously uncomplicated and unique.
Negative space logos are just plain fun! Just think about how great it felt when you spotted that Hershey’s Kiss. It’s important to nurture the relationship you have with your customers and increase goodwill toward your brand. A fun, inviting logo is one small way that you can accomplish that.
Things to be mindful of
Now that you’ve seen negative space in action, you might be ready to experiment with your own logo. But before you do, here are a couple of things to keep in mind.
1. Consult with a design expert
Draw inspiration from these negative space logos but consider asking a skilled graphic artist to create your logo for you. In addition to translating all of your ideas into a professional, eye-catching logo, experienced designers like the logo design experts at Deluxe have the technical know-how to ensure that the logo will function across every marketing platform that you use. Whether you print the logo on merchandise or display it on your website, emails, and social media, a professionally designed logo will be something that you can be proud of.
2. Any changes should be appropriate to your brand
The arrow in the FedEx logo wasn’t just squeezed into the design because it looked cool, and it certainly isn’t there by accident — the logo wouldn’t have won more than 40 design awards if either of those things were true. FedEx is a courier delivery service and, according to the logo’s designer Lindon Leader, the right-facing arrow symbolizes speed and precision. Like the FedEx design, the best negative space logos are created with purpose and reinforce brand values and identity.