Minimalism in Logo Design: Positively Perfect Negative Spaces 8

Friday, 27th August, 2010 by Rob in Logo Design.


When it comes to logos, minimalism is not something that necessarily springs to mind automatically, because of how much the logo has to encapsulate and convey to the viewers.

Given the depth of the design briefs that the client will often turn in to you, our first thought tends to be far from a minimalistic leaning. Now let me be clear, there is a difference between taking a minimalistic approach and trying to figure out how to include all of the client’s wishes in as compact and subtle a design as possible. There are not many occasions where we get the desired specs and then we start envisioning some rash, overly garish design thinking this is the way to go. So many designers take an understated approach, because that is what they think serves the design the best. Cleverly subtle and unique work.

So when you opt for the minimalism take for your project, not only do you have to work form an even more subdued place, but you also have to arguably be more creative in a somewhat more limited environment. Finding more muted approaches for the client’s conveyable requirements. Which is where negative space can truly come in handy when you find yourself working with more minimalistic design territories. So many amazing logos have brilliantly employed the use of negative space so perfectly that the bar is forever being set higher and higher for all those looking to brand in this fashion.

So what does it mean to work with this approach, beyond the challenge of the aforementioned bar to be met? Well below is a more in depth look at working with negative space, complete with a showcase of some fantastic examples of logos employing this popular technique.

Negative Space

First it is important to understand what exactly is meant by negative space. Now, while most of us are familiar with the concept, a brief technical refresher never hurts to renew our definition and understanding of the concept overall.

“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, and not the subject itself, forms and interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space is occasionally used to artistically effect as the “real” subject of an image. The use of negative space is a key element of artistic composition.”

So that is it in a very basic sense. However, there is quite a bit more to consider when you are dealing with negative space and how it is defined. For some, negative space is somewhat of a void. The area of a design that is a sort of blank slate, but negative space is much more than that. For one, negative space is far from blank, dead space. It is very much interactive. It works with the subject of the composition to carve out its edges, making the subject take complete shape. Especially in some cases, where manipulating the negative space effectively and incorporating it into your design can create a depth to the work that it could otherwise lack.

Finding the Balance

So when working in a minimalist mindset using negative space, keep in mind it is not just a matter of the way it simply works with the main subject of the piece, even though they heavily interact. The negative space very much needs to balance out the entire make-up of the design. Simultaneously cutting out the edges of the subject out while not detracting from it whatsoever, something that we should always be conscious of as designers. At any time if the negative space breaks that balance, encroaching on the main subject of the composition it has crossed beyond a useful element. Now negative space, as previously mentioned, does not always translate to empty space. No, it can be filled with any number of elements so long as they serve the main subject of the design.

In logo design, however, especially with our discussion of minimalism, more often than not the negative space will remain empty. Given also that most logos work best in a two-tone color scheme for effective black and white rendering, there are numerous opportunities to capitalize on the negative space and creatively employ it as an asset to the work. Finding these balances can make for striking work. And using the negative space to complete the image really drives home the minimalist approach. The handful of these interesting implementations that we have featured below, only begin to scratch the surface of the various means by which this can be achieved. Inspiring us to look at our designs in a completely different manner than we normally would. And that is always beneficial to those in any creative field.

A New Perspective

It is no secret, so many of us find ourselves in a rut, figuratively speaking, when it comes to our work, and so as we begin each new project we end up approaching everything in the same manner. Never being able to reach outside of our box to incorporate new ideas and techniques as fluidly as we would like. All because of the routine that we are working from. So if we take on the challenge of largely carving our work from within the negative space that exists within our chosen borders, then our entire approach changes, and the routine is no longer governing our every action on the project. We begin to see it all anew.

The Limitation Challenge

As previously discussed having to work in more subdued confines, as can be the case when using negative space charged minimal designs for your logos, can seem somewhat limiting, but once again this can be a fabulous opportunity to see it as a challenge not simply a limitation. Do not allow this to serve as a hindrance of any kind, because that way is paved with doubt and countless revisions and second guessing. Instead let this have a positive effect on your work, as you take on fresh perspectives that you may have not yet explored in your designs before. You may be surprised how much this can take not only the project in which you allow this deviation to occur to new heights, but all of your future work as well.

Quick Tips for Designing Logos with Negative Space

Here are a few tidbits of advice for implementing a minimal design which uses the negative space to create part of the subject of the design. These tips should help you stay in the correct frame of mind for taking on this challenge, which as discussed, is key. The routine we tend towards is not always going to assist us as we stray from our normal approaches, and there is no reason it should. We are going in a different direction, so we may need to carry some new tools in our arsenal of thought.

Keep it Simple!

When it comes to minimalism, keep it simple should be understood, but often the most obvious answers elude us when we are actively engaging their pursuit. So a friendly reminder is usually quite welcome in these cases. So hold to the ‘Less is More’ principle more so than ever when using this minimalist negative space carved design approach. From the beginning you need to keep this mantra repeating your mind over and over. Especially as you pour over the swollen brief from the client, never let the words keep it simple be far from the front of your tongue.

The first thing you need to do here is work on distilling. No, not alcohol, we are talking about distilling the idea down into as singular a presentation as you can devise. You need to take everything from the prospective client, their business model and approach and work out a way to distill it all into a single all encompassing idea. One that you can present to the world through your design in a single avatar that their entire business has been distilled into. Something that is easily recognizably representative to the masses, or parallels the companies mission statement. This single distilled idea needs to convey quite a bit so we move on to tip number two.

Keep Outside the Box!

Once again, thinking outside the box is something that we as designers tend to not have a problem doing, but when it comes to using a single idea to try and translate the entire briefed expectations of the client, we often opt for the familiar. We let the challenge of distilling the idea overwhelm our thinking into moving back into the usual territories for our pool of creative brainstorming. We believe that the design has to do so much with so little that taking chances on more abstract or interpretive solutions is not a viable approach in these cases. But we cannot allow this fear based boxing of our creative process occur.

So it becomes ever more important that we do not allow our thinking be limited by the more safe, conventional approaches that the design community can tend to fall back on. Using it as somewhat of a saftey net. This is one area where using the negative space to help shape and create your focal subject of the design can really come in handy with its out the box mindspace that it automatically brings about. As was discussed the benefits are quite useful, so do not cower to the fear or cave to the pressure from the client. Stand firm by your direction and help them see why it is a sound approach should they resist. Naturally, we only push to a point, before we go back to the proverbial drawing board if the client insists.

Keep it Tight!

Another useful bit of advice to keep in your arsenal as you take on this type of project, keep it tight. In a lot of these negative space carved designs, random elements or shapes come together to form the central image that essentially carries the logo’s full weight. Meanwhile the rest of the image just seemlessly blends into the background to complete the effect and the idea. This is a fantastic technique to use when it is employed properly, and part of that is remembering that the distance between the various points helps to maintain the intended idea without its recognizability scattering with the elements in the design.

As you can see from the rough demonstration above, the more you spread out the image the harder it will be to discern by the audience. The more distance that you have between them, the more the negative space is charged with bringing out the shape in order to ensure it is interpreted correctly. In example image 1 you can see the shape of the star pretty easily, even though the majority of the image is created by the negative space. But in example image 2 with the elements (or in this case, the points of the star) are spread farther apart leaving the negative space to translate much more of the image, which is does with less ease, and more work on the part of the viewer. So as you use minimal elements to create your image, be sure that you bare their spacing in mind and keep things tight.

Keep Subtracting!

This final bit of advice follows along the recognition functionality track as well, as we combine elements to carve our focal image in the logo out of the negative space that surrounds it. For those more minimally minded, keep subtracting from your image as you go along. This process assumes that for the most part, we begin using an excess of elements due to the fact that we are not that confident in the conveyance ability of the negative space. But for truly more minimal approaches, try to remove as many of those elements from the subject as you can while still maintaining its complete visibility at a glance.

Again, this may not be the easiest hurdle to take, given that you might already be working pretty far from your normal comfort zone, but there is nothing to lose by trying this out. If it does not work, then you simply undo and put those elements back in to return the design back to a place where you believe it works better. But you might along the way find a cleaner, crisper variation of the logo that works better than your original more cluttered creation. So it is a win/win situation, if you employ this tactic. Just begin subtracting the elements being sure that it remains recognizable with each subtraction. The moment you take away an element and the viewer has to begin working harder to discern what they are looking at, you risk losing them.

Positively Perfect Negative Space in Action

At long last, here is the inspirational showcase that we have prepared of some truly wonderful minimalistic designs with positively perfect use of negative space, and that we have been promising throughout the post. We hope that you enjoy these creative works, some which you probably have seen, and some which you are hopefully seeing for the first time.

The NUNU logo is a great example of outside the box thinking. The negative space fills in the partial outlines completing the ‘N’s while the lines work to offer the ‘U’s.

The Plain Paper logo is perfect example of the negative space giving the full image shape and life. The plane is partially carved from the background with extremely clean, sharp lines.

The Movie Peeps logo does a wonderful job using the negative space to incorporate a dual image into the design. Completing the heads of the audience against the screen, meanwhile transforming the screen into the edge of a piece of film.

Once again, in the Honeymaze logo, we see the image being given full shape and form by the negative spaces inserted among the outlined elements. Less is more, as the left out elements are still virtually filled in with negative space to complete the honeycomb, while also creating the maze effect too.

The Rocket Golf logo uses the negative space between the golf tees to bring out a rocket with a few minor elements added at the bottom. This is another brilliant employment of this technique.

Another logo that uses the negative space to carve a secondary image in the design is the Blue Dog Properties. One you have more than likely seen before for its flawless, sharp execution.

Another design that comes from out of the box is the Missing logo which omits both of the letter ‘I’s from the word, letting the added space and background to fill the letters for it.

The Guitarshop logo uses the negative space to cut the letter ‘G’ out of the image of the guitar adding a little more depth to the overall design.

The X Films logo takes an imaginative twist on the negative space in their design, using it in combination with the X to bring to life a director’s chair like you would expect to see on a movie set.

The logo for the Wiesinger Music Piano Service creatively carves two sets of piano keys from out of the negative space, then reverses one set of them to make a WM for the initials of the company.

The TigerWild Tiger & Wild Life Preservation logo is one where various shapes and elements are brought together in the negative space to wonderfully create both a tiger and a deer for the design.

The Wine Forest logo is another great example of out of the box, minimalistic design, using thin, sharp line work to create a set of trees, meanwhile the negative space brings out a set of wine bottles from between the trees.

The Paint the City logo perfectly puts the negative space to work in creating both the image of a paint bucket with the paint spilling over side, which also forms a cityscape as the paint interacts with more of the negative space.

The Cakefilm Wedding Photographer logo is another wonderful use of the negative space creating film from the varied layers of the wedding cake in the design. Simple and effective.

The Bonefish logo is a brilliantly understated design, using the negative space to cut a simple fish image out of the solid letter ‘B’.

Almost in the same tone of the Missing logo, but with a more elements added in to complete the effect, the Illusion logo imaginatively uses the negative space to create the S which stands out from the word.

An effect that we see once again here in the aptly named Negative logo. The E is represented in negative space alone with the aid of a couple of added elements to complete the effect.

The 8 Fish logo, which you have probably seen featured around before, employs this technique fantastically to yield a second row of fish from between the row set apart from the negative space.

The logo for Williamson Pottery is one that had to be featured, as it so creatively carves a piece of pottery being molded with the simple application of a couple of hands and a base in the other main color used in the logo.

The Gaucho Wine logo is another imaginative design that takes a derivative on the cowboy defines of the company name by creating the head of a bull, but also by carving a wine glass from the negative space also.

One of the more minimal designs we have featured to put this tactic in place is certainly the ZipHub logo, which simply offsets the H breaking it into two pieces, and allowing a minute zipper to appear in the negative space.

The Water Drop logo is sharply and so cleanly carved, bringing a near shimmering drop of water that is seemingly running off of the W and about to drip off of it. Again, very simple and minimal approach.

Then we come to the Lighthouse logo which is another extremely minimal concept but wonderfully executed with the negative space carving a simple lighthouse out of the letter ‘T’ in the word.

The Zoorganic logo does make the absolute most of the negative space, using it to bring out an eagle, meanwhile three other animal shapes are subtly brought to life from the eagles various contours. It may be a bit much, but it does use the negative space to its maximum.

The final logo that we are featuring in this showcase is the iPhone Vacancies design which creatively cuts an iPhone plug with the negative space out of the larger briefcase image.

That is a Wrap

That does it from this end of the discussion, but the dialog can continue in the comment section below. Just leave your thoughts on the showcase and the ideas discussed on employing this technique in your designs. Also, feel free to link to any logos that you have where this was the route that you opted to take below.


  1. ajir says:

    very good explanation and relevan examples! thanks :D

Aug, 27, 2010 at 06:40 pm

  1. Eco-Ella says:

    Nice post, some of those examples are flawless! Thanks for the insight.

Aug, 27, 2010 at 08:40 pm

  1. letty says:

    Tnx, got the message :)

Aug, 27, 2010 at 08:58 pm

  1. Rob Bowen says:

    Thanks for the comments. Glad that the article resonated.

Aug, 28, 2010 at 05:10 pm

  1. Rain8 Graphic Design says:

    This is a great story. Ancient Chinese artists new that space leaves room for the imagination - allow the viewer to insert themselves or their own imagery thereby making the art more personal to each viewer. But it is ironic that the advertising and online world in China seem to have completely forget the effective style they invented. Online and offline design is very very cluttered with every possible space willed with small font, icons, thumbnails etc. Great article!

Aug, 31, 2010 at 04:47 am

  1. G4 Laptop iBook says:

    I found your blog on google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the great work Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

Sep, 05, 2010 at 12:17 pm

  1. A u d e e says:

    Well explained post! I like The Paint the City logo. It looks so smart :D

Oct, 05, 2010 at 02:00 pm

  1. Brett Widmann says:

    This is a very helpful article. I like how you go into detail about the science behind design and the use of space and such.

Jan, 16, 2011 at 07:07 pm

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