Is that a black circle floating in nothingness? Or is it a field of white with a hole in the middle? With either view, the shapes exist in context with each other. In design, the field surrounding intentional shapes is often called negative space. Yet this “empty” area also speaks – sometimes intentionally, and occasionally with an unintended message. The control of negative space in a design amounts to working out a productive balance between shape and the shape of what’s left.
The negative space of a logo can speak subtely, in a supporting or even subliminal role. The trick is to make sure that this role is the one you want, and does not carry any unintended messages. The iconic FedEx logo contains a subtle but effective arrow in it’s negative space – something I missed for years – a great example of an almost subliminal symbol of motion, travel and progress built into the negative space of their brand.
The new logo for VH1, on the other hand, has a negative space issue that I find confusing – or maybe have just not deciphered yet. From first glance, the logo looks like the negative space should be spelling out something… it looks a little like the word “is” in an old-school monospace font. But I don’t think that is the intended message. In this case, the negative space feels distracting – like a message that is not really there.
I love the creative way many designers now actively manage negative space in logos to speak as loudly, and perhaps more effectively, than the “positive” space. In a way, these designs give the viewer a satisfaction of having solved a riddle, having “gotten” the inside joke or meaning. Arguably, this puts them in a friendlier, more receptive mood to the design’s message. The cleverness of a logo design can yield a powerful impact. A few samples are below – google “negative space in logo design” for many great design galleries, or check out this link for more.
Rely on your printer for advice and direction with any questions you have in fashioning your brand or designing your marketing materials. They should be able to provide you with the latest information, inspiration, technical advice, and innovative ideas for print, signage, apparel and integrated marketing. If they can’t, you have the wrong printer! The best advice, always, is to ASK YOUR PRINTER!