Negative space is the space around and between the solid colored graphics (subject) of any image. Also known as whitespace, negative space is often used in logo design to form interesting or relevant shapes/letters reflective of the nature of business. When used effectively, it often provides the strongest connection to the brand and logo concepts.
Also, often the optical illusions created by the mix of the negative and positive spaces help focus the casual observer’s attention on certain parts of the logo, which the designer feels are important to highlight.
There are several logos that use this technique. Five of the more famous of these are described below and more examples can be find on WOWLogoz.
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Adobe has been at the forefront of graphic and multimedia software creation for almost two decades. Since launching its flagship product Photoshop in 1989, Adobe has remained head and shoulders above its competition in brand recognition alone. The current logo is smart, simple and instantly recognizable.
The “A” in the current logo has been created from the whitespace between various red hued angular shapes. The original logo created by Marva Warnock, wife of one of the company’s founders, has evolved into the current logo, retaining the basic shape of the “A” from the original.
FedEx Corporation or FDX Corporation as it was originally known has one of the best examples of negative space usage in logo design. The company renowned for its global logistics business uses a word mark as its logo rather than a separate symbol with text alongside. The ‘Fed’ is always purple and the ‘Ex’ is a different color for each of the company divisions, with grey used for the corporate version.
The “Ex” in the logo contains a hidden right-pointing arrow in the negative space between the “E” and the “X”. This describes the nature of the business – global transport or movement of freight.
The original NBC peacock with 11 feathers, created by John J. Graham, first appeared in 1956. The logo was created to represent the richness and increase in color programming on the network.
The logo in its present form (above) has been in use since 1986, when it was launched during NBC’s 60th anniversary celebration. Incorporating the six primary and secondary colors, this peacock, redesigned by Chermayeff & Geismar, remains one of the world’s most recognized logos.
The peacock’s head was flipped to the right to suggest it was looking forward, not back. The eleven feathers from its previous incarnation was shortened to six to reflect NBC’s six major divisions at that time – News, Sports, Entertainment, Stations, Network and Productions.
Formula One, also known as Formula 1 or F1, is the highest class of auto racing sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA – the governing body for many motor racing events).
The logo created in the early 2000s is a great example of the use of negative space in design in an effort to associate it with the activity of the organization. The logo uses the initial “F” and some graphics representing speed to form the numeral 1 in the negative space between them. Similar to the Adobe logo in simplicity and color palette, this logo too is easily recognizable.
The WWF or the World Wildlife Fund uses black and white, positive and negative spaces in its logo to represent the mascot of the organization – a Giant Panda. This classic logo was designed by its founder chairman, the naturalist and painter Sir Peter Scott, in 1961 and has undergone only minor transformations until its present incarnation (above).
We’ve all enjoyed the wonderful and uniquely shaped Swiss chocolates from Toblerone – originally created by Theodor Tobler and Emil Baumann in Bern, Switzerland in 1908. But it’s not only their chocolates which are distinctive. The logo is quite brilliant too.
The logo is said to be in the shape of the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. But what is unique is the use of the whitespace in the logo to create a bear silhouette, the bear being the local mascot of Bern.
7. USA Network
This logo for the USA Network, though simple, is very effective. The use of the negative space between the “U” and the “A” to create an “S” is smart and it gives the logo a unique look.
8. Kölner Zoo
The Kölner Zoo in Cologne is famous for its Elephant Park, which is why the main silhouette is that of an elephant. The whitespace for the elephants head, eye and legs has been used very effectively depicting a star for the eye, a giraffe between the head, trunk and fore legs, a rhinoceros between the fore and hind legs and the Cologne Cathedral’s twin spires in the negative space between the hind legs and tail.
This logo for the Guild of Food Writers, a UK based organization, is wonderful in its simplicity. It describes the business of the organization perfectly. The logo depicts the nib of a fountain pen with a spoon in the negative space near the tip.
At first glance the logo for the website “MyFonts” may look like a simple cursive typeface with no immediate negative space manipulation. However, on closer inspection, we see that the whitespace along with the text of the word “My” has been cleverly disguised to resemble a raised hand to indicate the personalization of the fonts.
Some other great examples of the effective use of negative space follow: