Negativity: not always a bad thing

Logo for The Arthritis Center at Encino Hospital

We designed this logo for The Arthritis Center at Encino Hospital. Negative space defines the afflicted hand, while positive space creates the healthy one.

I recently discovered a nice post on Irish designer David Airey’s blog, Logo Design Love. It’s a collection of 35 logos that make effective use of negative space.

For you non-designers, negative space is the “empty” space within a design. It can create its own shape and therefore can carry a secondary meaning, add interest and sometimes sneak in a subliminal message that makes all the difference in the effectiveness of a logo.

You know how, when someone says “Don’t think of an elephant,” you immediately think of an elephant? It’s a bit like that. The FedEx logo is a wonderful example. At first, most people don’t notice the right-facing arrow formed by the negative space between the “E” and the “x”. But once you see it, you can’t not see it. And it fuses the logo into your brain. (Interestingly, when it was presented to top management, CEO Fred Smith was the only person in the group to spot the arrow immediately.)

That kind of visual interest adds resonance, which is something we strive for in our own brand identity designs.

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