.To design a unique logo which communicates the client's identity is a challenge for every designer. But to create a hidden message, a second layer of meaning within the logo itself is special. A designer has a variety of techniques in their tool belt to achieve this outcome. However, it requires the intelligent and creative use of colours and shapes. One of the most visually intriguing ways of adding meaning without adding more design elements is negative space. It means shaping the nothingness around the logo as if it was a design element itself.
We call the practice of coaxing meaning from literally thin air the use of negative space.
Negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the "real" subject of an image.
In plain english, this means that the space around an object can be as important, if not more so, than the actual object itself. Thus, if the colours of object and background are reversed, the background appears as an object of its own.
This practice has been explored and used by artists, designers and even psychologists for decades, and is one of the big graphic design trends of the past couple of years. Let's take a closer look at a number of famous examples of amazing logos using negative space:
Almost anybody in the world knows the iconic FedEx logo. It is easily legible and has great colour differentiation as well as recognisability. What most people don't know though is that FedEx advertise their speed and efficiency by more than just a slogan. Hidden in the negative space between the E and x is a forward-pointing arrow!
The French supermarket giant Carrefour (french for crossroads) employs a similarly striking two-tone colour scheme and bold shapes to advertise its presence. We tend to see the red and blue arrow immediately. What we don't see until much later is the central Carrefour C hiding in plain sight.
In an embodiment of simplistic design, the Guild of Food Writers' logo is extremely clever. It portrays both the nib of a fountain pen as well (in black) as well as a spoon (in white) in the most elegant of fashions.
Slightly more obvious but equally intelligent is the use of animal shapes, both for main body and negative space, in the logo of the Cologne Zoo in Germany. The designers have even hidden a little outline of Cologne Cathedral between the elephant's legs.
Most of us will also have come across the Formula 1 brand. Through the use of red lines symbolising speed, the design does away with the need to spell out the 1. Negative space takes care of the rest.
The use of negative space in the logo of the Pittsburgh Zoo is possibly the most obvious out of our examples. However, it's no less beautiful for that. Here, a gorilla and a lion look at each other before a backdrop of an exotic tree. Did you spot the birds and fish playing in the vicinity?
Whether a logo is simple or complex, you can determine its success by how well you can read its shapes and colours. Designers hide some messages more deeply than others though, bringing a smile to our faces when we find them.
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