IllustrationFeature

The art of negative space: 25 amazing examples

These brilliant illustrations all employ clever and creative use of negative space.

Negative space is, quite simply, the space that surrounds an object in a image. Just as important as that object itself, negative space helps to define the boundaries of positive space and brings balance to a composition.

More and more these days, the creative world is seeing an emergence of artists creating positive spaces and shapes that, in turn, cleverly carve out shapes in negative space intentionally. And the results can be stunning. Here, we've found some brilliant examples - enjoy!

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01. Alexander Johnson

negative space
A classic tail for a classic tale - Moby Dick book cover design

Leeds based designer Alexandar Johnson created this clever Moby Dick book cover for the classic tale Moby Dick. Including both the harpoon and the whale's tale, it's simple, striking and brilliantly unique.

02. Tang Yau Hoong

examples of negative art
Tang Yau Hoong negative space art is always jaw-dropping

Tang Yau Hoong is an artist, illustrator, graphic designer living in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With a passion for creative thinking, he creates art that is conceptual, surreal and fun in a simplistic and unique way.

03. Ben Farrow

examples of negative space art
A brilliantly simple use of negative space from Ben Farrow

Ben Farrow is an anthropomorphic artist and graphic designer whose work focuses primarily on vector art. This brilliantly simple execution of the Titanic is a clever way of using negative space with more than a hint of art nouveau.

04. Troy DeShano

negative space art
Troy DeShano was inspired by one of Hitchcock's greatest movies for this piece

Troy DeShano has created tonnes of negative space art but it's this creation, based on Hitchcock's 'The Birds', that caught our eye. We love the intergration of her hair with the silouhettes of flying birds.

05. Caroline Remy

negative space art
This clever use of negative space 'hides' the main animal

"The firm specialises in cattle," explains Belgian designer Caroline Remy. "But its image among customers is for smaller animals. The customer wanted to hide the cow, which is why it must append two cards to replenish the logo."

06. Harvey Esparcia

examples of negative space
This brilliant use of negative space combines the designers initials

This simple yet striking logo design is the personal logo study from Filipino designer Harvey Esparcia who uses negative space to combine his initial letters.

07. Painting the Universe

examples of negative space
Philipp Rietz dives into space for his negative space work

An out-of-this-world example of negative space, the striking white space matched with the beautiful, eccentric colours make this an unforgettable execution from designer Philipp Rietz.

08. Flying far, far away

examples of negative space
A clever use of perspective showcases the negative space

This negative space design from illustrator and artist Ale M is a subtle and wholly beautiful offering that shows a splash of colour can make all the difference. We love the clever use of perspective.

09. Songbird

examples of negative space
We love this simple yet striking use of negative space

Designer Tang Yau Hoong uses a simple and straight-forward illustration style to get the most out of the negative space. Using just the two shades allows the clever negative space trick to jump out.

10. Nature's Choir

examples of negative space
A gorgeous and intricate execution of negative space

This more intricate offering from illustrator and artist radiomode is as beautiful as they come. Using negative space to portray the beauty of nature, we especially love the attention to detail on the leaves.

11. Guild Of Food Writers

Beautiful in its simplicity, the GFW logo uses negative space splendidly

Creative agency 300million delivers work that is intelligent, looks good and gets results. A great example is The Guild of Food Writers' logo, the replacement of the pen's nib with a spoon shape creates a simple, clever and impactful logo.

12. Spartan Golf Club

Ingenious, but it does make you wonder which came first - the logo design or the golf club's name?

Richard Fonteneau is a graphic designer based in Lexington, USA. The Spartan Golf Club is a perfect example of well executed negative space in a logo design. The arc appears to be the top of a Spartans warriors helmet, also the making of the golfer's driving swing. And do you notice anything about the face of this Spartan?

13. FedEx Logo

The FedEx logo is a classic use of negative space

The white arrow between the E and the X is piercing once seen. This 'hidden arrow' conveys the dynamic attributes that maintains FedEx leadership. The logo has won ample design awards and is constantly featured in 'best logos' lists. The logo was originally designed by Lindon Leader in 1994, he feels the sole purpose of branding is to facilitate the realisation of a client's strategic marketing objectives. The work his studio creates "is not decorative or cosmetic".

14. Fiat

Clever use of negative space to have the maximum impact (not literally)

We're used to seeing highly creative and quality work come from worldwide ad agency Leo Burnett. So it's no surprise that the team in Brazil have come up trumps once again with this brilliantly clever new campaign for car manufacturer Fiat, which encourages drivers not to send text messages while drving.

A series of three prints, a large white letter R, N, and F are accompanied by a graphic of a little girl, dog, and bus respectively, each illustration creating the defining shape of each letterform. The taglines state: "You either see the letter or the dog (bus, little girl). Don’t text and drive."

This is a fantastic example of how clever use of negative space can make a big impact. The stark contrast between black and white creates beautiful silhouettes of the girl, dog and bus hidden within the type. An innovative idea that really drives home the dangers of texting while driving.

15. Day vs Night

Beautiful and surreal illustration's utilisation of negative space becomes apparent once inverted

Tang Yau Hoong is a self taught illustrator born and based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Experimenting and playing with negative space and illusion in her artwork, she has developed a series of mesmerising illustrations. Tang Yau Hoong's work is mostly conceptual, surreal and minimalist with an interesting colour palette.

Day vs Night is available to buy here. Each illustration is made using archival pigment inks and fine-quality paper, and is hand-signed by Tang Yau Hoong.

16. Noma Bar

Negative space
One of many Don Delillo book cover designs by Noma Bar

A graduate of the Bezalel Academy of Art & Design, Noma Bar is an award-winning graphic designer, famous for his 'negative space style'. Using a limited colour palette, Bar carefully crafts and places positive space to give the negative space another meaning.

Using the bare minimum to communicate his message, Bar's distinctive work has gained him international recognition and work with leading companies including Vodafone, Coca Cola and the BBC.

17. Olly Moss

Negative space in art
British designer Olly Moss cleverly uses negative space to depict the main feature of the film

Designer Olly Moss is a master of postive and negative space trickery - a perfect example being this stunning poster he created for Mondo for the 30th anniversary screening of An American Werewolf in London back in 2011.

Glaringly obvious, the negative space around the shape of the aerial view of the UK cleverly forms a brilliant illustration of the terrifying creature featured in the movie.

18. Tang Yau Hoong

Negative space in art
Beware of those hands...

Malaysia-based graphic designer Tang Yau Hoong has a brilliant ability to cleverly incorporate negative space into his works. This Beware of those Hands piece is one of many where the talented artist uses negative space to extend the story of the objects featured in the image.

A master of his craft, Hoong loves simplistic design, a style which is reflected throughout his awe-inspiring portfolio.

19. Simon C. Page

Negative space in art
Graphic designer Simon C. Page uses negative space trickery to depict Batman VS Penguin

It's Batman VS Penguin in this brilliant print by graphic designer Simon C. Page. Part of his Criminal Underworld series, Page cleverly depicts both characters using negative space trickery.

The bald head and long pointy nose are instantly identifiable as Danny Devito's Penguin, which in turn, carves out the strong, bold silhouette of Michael Keaton as Batman. Genius.

20. Shigeo Fukada

Negative space in art
Japanese graphic designer employed a strong use of negative space in his artwork

The artwork of Japanese graphic designer Shigeo Fukada employs a strong use of negative space as well as bold experiments with perspective and optical illusions.

Much like many of his pieces, this striking black and white print, constructed of minimal, considered lines, is slightly disorientating - a theme that ran through his work up until his death in 2009. 

21. Malika Favre

Negative space in art
Kama Sutra

When French artist and illustrator Malika Favre was commissioned to create the cover for this naughty classic, she went through many iterations - including this one - to get to the final design.

Known for her distinctive use of graphic shapes and bold colours, Favre comments on her website: "I try and get to the essence of my subject by using as few lines and colours as it needs to convey the core of the idea." And she's certainly done that for this version of the book cover, cleverly incorporated negative space into the design to depict various sexual positions.

22. Glad

Negative space in art
The Safari Into Africa logo incorporates the African continent, created out of negative space, within the form of an elephant

UK-based graphic design consultancy Glad recently developed this branding for Safari Into Africa, a new safari operator based in Zambia, Southern Africa.

Promoting the main aspects of the brand, the logo shows the African continent created out of the negative space within the form of an elephant.

23. George Bokhua

Negative space in art
Designer George Bokhua takes the art of negative space to new places

Working in monochrome and making the most of his negative space, George Bohkua's created these adorable animal characters. The simplicity of the designs make their impact that much greater - it's definitely a case of 'less is more'.

Bokhua has also created a series of animal marks, as well as some great typographic logos, in the same style as these negative space illustrations.

24. Lowe-SSP3

Negative space in art
Snow White and Sherlock Holmes fill the positive and negative space in this beautiful print for the Colsubsidio Book Exchange

Come with a story and leave with another -that's the tag line to this brilliant illustration promoting the Colsubsidio Book Exchange. Created by Colombia-based advertising agency Loew-SSP3, at first glance, the minimalist design features a beautiful illustration of Snow White, depicted simply through her signature black hair and blood red ribbon and lips. 

It's only on closer inspection that you notice that a Sherlock Holmes portrait serves as the outline for her face.

25. Edgar Rubin

Negative space in art
Rubin's vase is one of the most famous examples of negative space as an optical illusion

We couldn't do a feature on negative space without including Edgar Rubin's infamous vase. One of the world's most famous optical illusions, the negative space around the vase cleverly forms the silhouette of two faces.

Rubin conveyed a hidden meaning to the image by giving the characteristics of a face imprinted in the vase, which has become a case study for the subject of negative space ever since it was created in the early 1900s.

Have you seen any inspirational examples of negative space recently? Let us know in the comments!

Words: Kerrie Hughes and Aaron Kitney

Kerrie Hughes is channel editor at Creative Bloq. Aaron Kitney is a freelance graphic designer and art director based in London and Vancouver.

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