What is negative space in logo design

The nothing that points to something

You may have heard of the term ‘negative space’ when talking about design. Essentially, this refers to the empty or open space around an object that defines it; in plain English, it is ‘the nothing that points to something’.

Where the majority of people turn away from crowded designs (preferring the effect of simplicity), using negative space to hide a meaning or to portray a hidden message can actually be incredibly clever – you might not notice it at first, but once revealed it suddenly creates a whole different level of appreciation for the design and thought behind it.

Take logos for example: the thought process and true meaning behind the design of some of the most iconic logos is still unknown to many. Once discovered, they can make people say, “Oh!”, out loud in realisation of what they have been blind to for all these years. These iconic logos and their use of negative space have become so popular because it gives added meaning to their design, and this clever branding is innovative in its use of subtlety – giving the viewer a mysterious, intriguing meaning to appreciate.

Furthermore, even website developers are taking advantage of the power of negative space, constructing cleaner, simpler design schemes with more white space. The power of negative space when used in web design can help construct effective websites that enable the user to move around the website with ease.

Most would agree that a logo for a business is crucial. It not only reveals your identity but also invites new customers to get to know you, which in result can distinguish you from the competition. It is known that most viewers take about three seconds to scan your website, and what is the first thing they look for? Your logo.

So, let’s take a look at some of the most famous hidden meaning logos…

  1. The Tour de France logo

The first one is the Tour de France logo, which actually has two hidden messages inside of it: once you see it you won’t believe you ever missed it.

The first one becomes very obvious, the letter ‘R’ of Tour actually shows the outline of a cyclist, linking obviously to the premise of the event. Secondly, the yellow circle that acts as the bicycle wheel is also a sun, indicating that the events of the race only occur in the daytime, adding further depth to the meaning of this design.

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2. FedEx logo

Next, we are leaving France and travelling to take a look at FedEx, the international shipping company, whose logo also has a hidden meaning behind it. This logo isn’t exactly show-stopping in terms of its use of colour and font type but there is a hidden gem in this logo. Take a look at the negative space between the letter ‘E’ and the letter ‘X’. Notice how it forms an arrow? This arrow represents the idea of moving forward with speed and precision, much like the promises of the brand.

The granddaddy of negative space logos, this iconic logo was designed by Lindon Leader while at Landor (try saying that when you’re tipsy). The designer cleverly manipulated Univers 67 Bold. The use of negative space in this logo, which has won numerous design awards, perfectly portrays the notion of a ‘forward moving company’, in both senses of the word.

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3. Toblerone logo

The popular chocolate bar, Toblerone, has been around for quite some time; its current logo features a mountain, symbolising the Matterhorn Mountain in Switzerland. However, if you look closer, hidden inside the mountain is a bear which symbolises the chocolate’s unique honey flavour. Also, that the chocolate is made in what is known as the ‘City of Bears’. But by hiding the silhouette of a bear in the mountain illustration, this classic logo design neatly portrays the heritage of the brand, in a colour that makes you think of the chocolate too as this colour is also used in its packaging, branding and overall marketing.

4.Formula 1 logo

Formula 1 again employs a great use of white space between the letter F, and the red stripes in the logo actually forms a number one. The stripes are also meant to be a graphical representation of the speed achieved by a Formula 1 car when racing.

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5. Levi Jeans Logo

This iconic logo for one of the world’s most famous jeans brands actually represents something quite humorous. Have you ever noticed the rounded shapes at the end of the logo, well this abstract shape actually outlines the, well, apple bottom jeans!

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6. Sony Vaio logo

In the Sony Vaio logo, the squiggly V and A represents an analogue signal and the binary I and O represents a digital one. Combined the letters not only spell Vaio but also represent the “history of evolution of technology from analogue to digital”. Therefore, this logo is not only aesthetically pleasing but also very cleverly thought out.

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7. Pinterest logo

Pinterest got its namesake from the idea of ‘pinning’ things you like to a board. To further the idea of the pin, the ‘P’ in their logo represents a pushpin. This brings together the real life aspect of tacking something to your wall and also doing it in the digital age.

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Evidently, important details pop when negative space design is used correctly, for example highlighting a call to action or specific image or detail you want your audience to look at. For example, the use of negative space in the WWF logo successfully forms a panda, which certainly makes the important details pop.

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Therefore, adding hidden meanings by using negative space can be an effective way of adding value to your brand.  Now you are aware of the use of negative space, you’ll notice just how frequently it is used in some of the most famous logos.

Our team of Graphic Designers can help you design a logo that reflects your true meaning whether you want this to be hidden within an illustration or straight to the point.

Talk to the design team today, they are logo design experts and can create a show-stopping logo for you that is memorable in every way possible.