An important but often overlooked element of logo design is the negative space included in and around it. Negative space is the empty space between and surrounding the elements of a logo design. When cleverly used, that negative space can give a boring logo serious wow-factor.
Negative space can even be used to hide elements in logo designs. Once those elements are found, they become glaringly obvious and effective. For example, the negative space between the “E” and the “x” in the FedEx logo creates an arrow, which evokes feelings of speed and getting packages to their final destination without any detours. It’s a straight arrow to the destination.
Negative space can also be used as a primary component of a logo design. For example, the NBC logo is a peacock. The peacock’s feathers are filled, but the peacock’s body is created with negative space. Similarly, the Formula 1 logo uses negative space to create the “1” in its design.
Sometimes the negative space isn’t just a primary component of the logo. Instead, it’s the most important component of the logo such as the brand or company name. The Skype logo is the perfect example. The filled cloud in the Skype logo surrounds the negative space, which creates the company name.
Negative space is also effectively used to complete filled elements in a logo design. For example, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) uses negative space in its logo to create the illusion of a panda, and the Girl Scouts of America uses negative space to create the illusion of multiple girls.
Effectively using negative space in logo design is tricky. It takes planning and testing to get it right. The best use of negative space is usually very simple and subtle. Place elements close to each other, reverse colors, and add shapes to get ideas for leveraging negative space in your logo design. Most importantly, remember that negative space doesn’t have to be white.
Finally, make sure you show your logo to customers, friends, family, and employees to confirm that your use of negative space translates to other people who are not familiar with your design intentions. What might seem obvious, clever, and appropriate uses of negative space to you might not appeal to consumers at all.