How to Use Negative Space in Your Logo Design (With Examples)

/ April 6, 2021 | 7 Mins Read

How to Use Negative Space in Your Logo Design (With Examples)

Looking for some fresh new logo ideas to impress your clients? Well then read the article below to know about the use of negative spaces that can help you create compelling visuals.

Designing the perfect logo for your business can be pretty difficult. You want it to be perfect and represent your brand’s personality. If you are having trouble, you might want to try out this logo maker to give you some ideas to start with. Remember, it is important to make sure you come up with a logo that is unique and right for your business, and in order to do that, you need to have a deeper understanding of logos.

Have you ever wondered what the art (and science) behind logo creation is? (Yes, there is a science to it too).

Why are some logos considered cool logos?

What does a negative space logo actually mean?

How to design a logo using negative space?

We'll address all these questions and more in this blog, starting with:

What is negative space?

When it comes to negatives spaces--or empty spaces--in logo designing, you've got to understand Einstein's theory of relativity. Don't worry. It isn't as complicated as it sounds:

Negative space is basically:

  • A specific area of a logo design that interacts with another in a meaningful way, as the Daoist Taijitu Yin-Yang symbol demonstrates below:

Daoist Taijitu Yin-Yang symbol

  • Intelligent use of logo space to make it look clever and have an impactful impression. For instance, in the example shown below, you can see a piper (in the positive or black areas) and the face of a lady (in the negative or white space), depending on where you focus first:

you can see a piper (in the positive or black areas) and the face of a lady

  • When the empty space around a subject forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape. For example, in the case of FedEx, you can see an arrow forming between the letters 'E' and 'X':

FedEx

The learning: Negative space doubles up as a key element of artistic composition, as opposed to the focus being on the “real” subject of an image. Plus, negative space signifies the contextual space that surrounds the main subject. All in all, if you wish to highlight a relationship between different elements in your logo, using negative space is a good idea.

Now that you have understood what negative space means, let's look at how you can design a negative space logo.

Top-7 Strategies for Designing a Negative Space Logo 

1. Play mind games on the onlooker.

The idea of using negative space in a logo is to play with the reader's mind. In fact, it is also used to communicate another layer of meaning, which may not be as obvious in the first few seconds of viewing the logo.

In terms of a logo example, take the case of the Guild of Food Writer's logo:

 Guild of Food Writer's logo

Apart from featuring the name of the organization, the visual element features the nib of a fine ink pen, and the negative space between the two prongs of the pen nib is shaped like a spoon. This simple-yet-powerful image masterfully depicts all aspects of the brand--high-quality writing and food with a single design element and clever use of negative space.

2. Create negative space inside a letter.

One of the best examples of a logo that creates negative space inside a letter is the logo for the Oscars:

logo for the oscars

Here a quick breakdown of the different elements in the logo that create a well-conceived negative space:

  • The iconic Oscars award makes use of the negative white space and is set against a gold triangle that doubles up as the letter, 'A.'
  • The letter, A has been subtly bolded in the logo text to establish a relationship between the negative space monogram letter and the famous brand name--Academy.

Pro tip: When using letters to create a positive and negative space, play around with the layers to make sure they don't seem disproportionate.

3. Find clever negative spaces with shapes.

Shapes can be used to convey a succinct message to the onlooker. Consider the following example, which uses shapes to communicate the brand's offering:

clever negative spaces with shapes

Here's how the process works:

Step 1: Identify the alphabet you want to use.

Step 2: Find the negative space around it.

Step 3: Extract that shape out of the letter and sketch it on paper.

Step 4: Come up with an idea using the shape you just extracted.

Step 5: Build upon the negative space to get a cool logo.

Here's another that uses shapes to create a negative space logo:

JAPO

The learning: Whether you use 3D geometric shapes or use a flat design by distorting proportions, using shapes in a logo design is always a good idea.

4. Experiment with negative spaces and overlapping.

If you want to extract a clever negative space within your logo design, you can use the concept of 'overlapping.' Here's how this would work:

Step 1: Think of two objects you want to use that are overlapping with each other.

Step 2: Assign one object as the negative space and the other one as the positive space to create an overlapping opportunity. In the following example, you'll see a jockey (the object as the negative space) and a horse (the object as a positive space):

you'll see a jockey (the object as the negative space) and a horse (the object as a positive space)

Additionally, remember that you can use overlapping in type-faced logos as well:

use overlapping in type-faced logos

Here's a step-by-step framework of how to use negative space in a typeface-based logo:

how to use negative space in a typeface-based logo

Pro tip: To effectively and clearly communicate the exact design to the onlooker, make sure to surround the three sides of the negative space with positive space elements.   

5. Use shadows strategically.

You can also use shadows to create an interesting negative space around your logo design. Here's the process you can follow:

Step 1: Imagine a 3D object in your mind.

Step 2: Place the object in front of a single light source in such a way that one part of the object is illuminated and the other is shadowed.

Step 3: Use the illuminated part as the positive space and the shadowed part as the negative space (or vice-versa) to understand how to proceed with your logo design:

logo design

Here's another example to consider which uses overlapping text brilliantly:

logo that uses overlapping text

Pro tip: When using overlapping text in your logo, think of the font style and color as it should match with your brand's identity. You can always create an alternative logo and use it for less formal collaterals.

The learning: The use of overlapping elements provides more depth to the logo.

6. Put words in the image.

A rather unusual approach, you can integrate text/word inside your logo image by making use of negative space. Here's an example for reference:

Boom

Notice how the black cow seamlessly integrates the brand name, “Boom” on its hide using negative white space. The kicker, however, is the exclamation point that's been designed using the cow’s tail. Also, since cows are usually depicted with black and white undertones, the logo makes visual sense to the customers.

7. Use the product image.

If you specialize in one particular product, it makes sense to use that product in your logo design by way of negative space. Here's an example of how this would work:

Alchimiste

The brand effectively uses the letter “A” and integrates the shape of a beer bottle (their main product) into the negative space. You, too, can incorporate your product line into your logo by making use of negative space and relevant letters/symbols.

Finally, let's move on to understand the 360-degree benefits that negative space logos provide.

  • Helps create depth and makes the logo standout, as demonstrated below:

create depth in logo

  • Emphasizes different yet related features as highlighted in the example below:

bubble tea and house

Notice how the brand effortlessly integrates the two integral elements--bubble tea and house--into the logo and communicates what the brand is all about in an instance.

  • Creates unique and relevant shapes using the natural properties of letters/shapes as shown below:

Creates unique and relevant shapes using the natural properties of letters/shapes

These logos make use of the text to create 'hidden' yet clearly visible symbols and depict the meaning of the brand. The idea is to integrate subtle and meaningful symbols into your logo’s typography. You can make use of the negative space between the different letter combinations and areas to come up with interesting designs.

  • Communicates dual-meanings easily. Consider the following examples, for instance:

logo that Communicates dual-meanings easily

Here, as you can see, you can use two different forms of symbols to create dual meaning behind a single symbol. You don't always need letters/typeface to do so. The idea is to pique your viewer's interest by motivating them to find the 'hidden meaning' behind your design. Remember that the symbols chosen should effortlessly communicate what the brand is all about by making excellent use of negative space.

  • Creates smart visual puns. A negative space logo can help create eye-catching and smart designs that allow readers to read between the lines and truly 'notice' your logo for its meaningfulness and relatability. The Baskin Robbin's logo does this seamlessly by including the number "31" into its logo--depicting the number of ice cream flavors the brand started out with: 

baskin robbins logo

Closing Thoughts

Negative space logos, when done accurately, can allow you to incorporate multiple meanings into your logo design. More importantly, they can capture the user's attention and compel them to think twice. 

There's no dearth of creative ideas on how to use negative space in your logo design--you can make use of symbols, letters, entire words, imagery, overlapping, shadows and textures, and so on to create an everlasting impression on your reader. So try these negative space logo tricks and suggestions outlined above and make your logo stand out in a sea of sameness.

Sawaram Suthar is CMO at Acquire, and also a founder of Jagat Media, a digital marketing agency. A digital marketing consultant, he has experience in things including branding, promotions and page optimization, along with research and strategy. He has an MBA from the University of Pune. Anyone can find him on @sawarams.

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