Cotter Visual Synergist

The Science Behind Design – Visual Symbiosis

Good design is simple, yet so effective! When a visual’s positive space is so cleverly designed that it reveals another visual in its reverse negative space, this is good design.

Here is a good definition 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, and not the subject itself, forms an 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.”

Good designers consider the negative space in every application because it, too, has meaning. Manipulating the negative space effectively and incorporating it into the entire design results in a higher level piece. That’s art.

The visual space has meaning as the whole, in the positive space and in the negative space. All three use a visual symbiosis – positive relies on the negative and they both reveal the whole. Each is meaningful individually and meaningful as the whole.

Reducing a concept to its purest essence and creating a visual in its most simplistic form then playing with that simple shape, will often allow meaningful positive-negative space to unfold.

Here are some logos that make excellent use of positive-negative space including the famous FedEx negative space arrow. Also, find examples of good use positive-negative space on my “Abstract Logos” pinterest board.

In logo design, more often than not the negative space remains empty. A good logo design does not always have to make meaningful use of the negative space. Often a good design will just stand alone. Achieving the perfect balance is the key!

My current rant:
I am compelled to comment on the recent online media hype related to the Wendy’s logo “MOM” insertion. In press releases, articles, blogs, and even videos it is claimed Wendy’s logo has “MOM” in the artwork – using “the negative space”. If some read “MOM” into this artwork, I am convinced this is purely coincidental or the artist having fun, but it is not a design-inspired intentional use of positive-negative space as implied by many who obviously were stretching for something significant to write/talk about. Hidden message? The only hidden message here is that those who came up with this theory are not designers or the visual branding experts they claim to be!