Following today’s group presentations, I started thinking about how negative space is used in design. Edward Tufte’s opinion is that effective layering of information is difficult, and he’s right – every time I see an excellent example, it really jumps out at me and makes me think about the images presented and how they interact, and of course, it doesn’t happen all that often. Interestingly enough, the pleasure my brain takes from deciphering such images calls back to the typology of Phillips and McQuarrie from earlier in the term. It seems that their typology can apply to more than just advertisements, and this theory of design reminds me of their definition of “richness [as] a matter of ambiguity, not in the negative sense of opacity or confusion, but in the positive sense of multiplicity and polysemy.” (Phillips and McQuarrie, 120). Negative space, when used in a positive and effective way, creates another layer of meaning operation on top of the immediately obvious first impression.

Talking about negative space usually brings to mind familiar a example, that is, the vase created by the white space between two black profiles. I decided to look around for other examples of well-used negative space and found the following, among many others.

In the first image, two wine glasses added together create a third element, the piano key. I love how the notion of elegance is expressed through fine dining and music, all within one simple logo. The next one shapes the branches of trees into wine bottles, again using very simple imagery to tell a more complex story.




Of course, not only logos use this design technique – it’s also often present in artwork. In the image below, the paint bucket and the animals+their environment create the outline of the African continent.




2 thoughts on “1+1=3

  1. This is awesome! I think it’s a genius move when companies can find a way to creatively design a logo or brand identity without compromising the functionality (that is, so you can still tell that it is a logo, etc.).
    My favourite example I was thinking about in class earlier was the FedEx logo:

    Note how the negative space between the E and X creates a forward facing arrow, indicating that their product is fast. Remarkable.

  2. I always found that logo interesting because most people don’t notice the arrow until it’s pointed out to them (though you can’t unsee it once you’ve seen it). I mean, for the two logos I posted, the negative space is essential for understanding the brand. In the FedEx logo, however, the arrow is more subliminal. It’s almost like a hidden bonus, which is even more cognitively rewarding than the wine logos — even though it’s actually simpler :).

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