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. And the results can be stunning. Here, we've found some brilliant examples – enjoy!
The Design from Finland mark was introduced in 2011 to provide consumers in Finland and elsewhere with evidence of Finnish design excellence, and its logo is a prime example. Designed by Rasmus Snabb from Werklig in Helsinki, it packs a glorious little piece of clever negative space into a mostly typographic treatment, turning the F and I of 'Finland' into a Finnish flag.
02. Air Max 2017
Negative space doesn't have to be static, you know. Nike wanted to draw attention to the ultralight support and maximum comfort provided by its Air Max 2017 trainers, and so ManvsMachine delivered a campaign that portrayed this through a series of visual metaphors inspired by scenarios encountered on an everyday run. Rather than use an actual Air Max, it instead employs a trainer-shaped piece of negative space to suggest air. Clever.
This personal project saw Michael De Pippo putting his photography, Photoshop and cookie eating skills to test. The Canadian graphic designer used negative space to hide a hungry monster in each of these half-eaten cookies – he cooked up created six different biscuit flavours, and sold them as a limited-edition giclée print.
NBC first used a peacock in its logo in 1956. The design subsequently went through a number of changes, experimenting with a snake logo and variations on the letter N, until 1986, when the broadcaster introduced the best-known version with the peacock's body displayed as negative space. There have been stylised variants since then, but the peacock remains in place.
Each month, Yorokobu magazine asks an artist or designer to create a series of original numerical characters for its Numerografía section, and this was what Forma and Co came up with. The Barcelona-based team used eye-popping primary colours and a clever use of negative space that creates a 3D effect.
06. Mister Cooper
Briefed to design a distinctive logo for an adult-targeted alcohol and gourmet ice cream startup, renowned branding firm Johnson Banks utilised negative space to tell potential customers exactly what Mister Cooper was selling. The eye-catching identity system was rolled out across packaging, uniforms and merchandise.
It's easy to become desensitised to sad news, but this video for the World Food Programme powerfully drives home the plight of refugees. Designed by negative space master Noma Bar and animated by Ale Accini, the 30-second video called 'Symbols' uses stunning visual shorthand to help stop hunger and start peace. And it's emotively narrated by Liam Neeson.
Romania-based artist Bodea Daniel – aka Kretank – is a pro when it comes to negative space. Much of his work features the style, and he specialises in animal-based designs. Take a look at his logo portfolio and see if you can spot all the hidden messages!
09. Tang Yau Hoong
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. A whole section of his website is dedicated to the art of negative space.
10. Harry Potter
Illustrator Olly Moss is known for his super-smart use of negative space. When he was tasked with designing covers for the first ever worldwide digital release of the Harry Potter series, he didn't disappoint. They may look straightforward, but each one has a hidden message – take a look at the full set on his site.
Next page: 8 more mind-bending negative space designs