In layout design, negative spaces are areas that have no content (i.e., types, images, etc.) These are also called white spaces although they don’t necessarily have to be white. The background can be of any color, just with the absence of content. Generally, the basic purpose of negative space is to create balance and make the layout look clean for the viewer. In logo design, there’s a clever use for negative space – hiding images.
Negative space is basically the empty space around or between the subject image (s). In a black-and-white image, like the one below, the image is usually black while the space around it is white, creating a silhouette. (The color scheme can be reversed, though.)
If you are going to “hide” the subject, you may want to “manipulate” the negative space by emphasizing everything around the subject. In the above image, which is actually an optical illusion, the chalice was created by “manipulating” the white space around the subject to appear like two human faces that are facing each other. Or we could look at it the other way around – the chalice’s intricate shape was manipulated to create the faces. The point is – whether it is black or white or any color for that matter – you can manipulate negative spaces to include hidden images.
The FedEx logo is a good example of using a negative space to hide a design element in a logo. Care to look for the hidden arrow? Yes, it’s between the letters E and X. The negative space between the two letters, which were put closer together, produced the hidden arrow.
If you want to be clever and use negative space to add a design element in your logo design, here are the tips to remember:
- Make the image as simple as possible in order to avoid confusion. The arrow in the FedEx logo was easy to spot because of its simplicity.
- Don’t just use white space. You have the option to use any color, especially if the logo is based on a specific theme or a branding image.
- If its a typographic logo, consider adding a shape behind, around, or between the text and then reverse the colors. (Remember the chalice illusion.)
- Experiment with proximity. As with the FedEx logo, two symmetrical elements in close proximity can create another image.
Logos with hidden images never fail to get that “Aha!” reaction. That’s why they work so well. People love to be surprised, not to mention being let in on a secret, which is what these hidden images in logos seem to most of us. By carefully (and cleverly) using negative spaces, you can have the chance to embed a secret in your logo design.