A negative space odyssey

It’s hard to beat a clever use of negative space. Here are 35 or so logos that show good use of white space.

A.G. Low Construction logo design
A.G. Low Construction logo
By Rebecca Low

Martin Newcombe logo design
Martin Newcombe Property Maintenance logo
By buddy

Nexcite rabbit logo
Nexcite logo
By Amore
Via Blair Thomson

American Institute of Architects logo design
American Institute of Architects Center logo
By Pentagram

Ogden Plumbing logo design
Ogden Plumbing logo
By Astuteo

WWF logo design
WWF
By Sir Peter Scott, modified by Landor

FreemanWhite logo design
FreemanWhite logo
By Malcolm Grear Designers

Brand Union logo design
The Brand Union logo
By The Brand Union

MyFonts logo design
MyFonts logo
By Underware

Egg n Spoon logo
Egg n Spoon logo (same day couriers)
By Thoughtful

Human logo
Human logo
By Social UK

Dolphin House logo
Dolphin House logo
By Ico Design

Eaton logo
Eaton logo
By Lippincott (thanks, Brendan)

Elefont logo design
Elefont logo
By Logo Motive Designs

USA Network logo design
USA Network logo
By Sean Serio

CultureBus logo design
CultureBus logo
By Pentagram

Carrefour logo design
Carrefour logo
Original design examined by Miles Newlyn (thanks Rianna)

Henri Ehrhart logo design
Henri Ehrhart monogram (shameless)
View a little of the design process on my blog

Sinkit logo design
Sinkit logo
By smashLAB

Guild of Food Writers logo design
Guild of Food Writers logo
By 300million

ED logo design
ED logo
By Gianni Bortolotti

Blade logo design
Blade logo
By Subversive Design

Premier Catering logo
Premier Catering logo
By Madhouse
Via Logolog

The Waterways Trust logo
The Waterways Trust logo
By Pentagram

FedEx logo design
FedEx logo
By Lindon Leader while at Landor

Knoll logo design
Knoll logo
By NB: Studio
Via Logolog

Ryan Biggs logo design
Ryan Biggs Associates logo
By id29

Hartford Whalers logo design
Hartford Whalers logo
By Cummings & Good (thanks, Jeff)

Conception logo design
Conception logo
By The Chase

Yoga Australia logo design
Yoga Australia logo
By Roy Smith Design

Hands On Network logo design
Hands On Network logo
By Duffy & Partners

Vanderbilt University logo design
Vanderbilt University logo
By Malcolm Grear Designers

Recycle Taiwan logo design
Recycle Taiwan logo
By do you know?

NBC logo design
NBC logo
By Steff Geissbuhler while at Chermayeff & Geismar

New Bedford Whaling Museum logo design
New Bedford Whaling Museum logo
By Malcolm Grear Designers

Mouse logo design
Mouse logo
By Johnson Banks

Update: 06 September 2010
Here’s another nice idea just featured, for a company called Landfit.

Update: 05 March 2011
And another — Snooty Peacock.

Logo Design Love, the book

232 thoughts on “A negative space odyssey

  1. The Guild of Foodwriters is a little bit special if you ask me and I love the ED logo as it says everything in one simple icon. Perfect!!

  2. Until today I had never noticed the hand in the My Fonts logo and that was only because I knew there must have been something there to find!

    Special mentions for all-round genius-ness, in no particular order, go to: Martin Newcombe, WWF, FreemanWhite, Blade, Waterways Trust, FedEx (of course), Guild of Food Writers, ED, Knoll and, because it’s fun, Ogden Plumbing.

    Great List David. Love this sort of stuff.

  3. Martin, it took me a few with the MyFonts one. Kind of like Ogden Plumbing — when I first saw it I wondered what the little man was doing running with a key.

  4. Wonderful examples. I’ve always thought Brand Union’s was fantastic. But…there’s so many gorgeous examples here, it’s just about impossible to pick a favorite!

  5. I don’t get the blade one… what is there to find in it? and I just noticed the hand in myfonts too! wow… I like the Fedex logo a lot, but I think the guild of food writers is my favorite.

  6. I do like the fact that the images are in black and white, placing more emphasis on the use of shapes.

    Great collection! Now for the rest of the day I’ll be looking for hidden images in everything I see :)

  7. Just a great collection! I caught them all and felt silly for NEVER having noticed the arrow in FedEx before this. Outstanding. Loved Egg & Spoon…all are great though!

  8. For me, it’s either the Guild of food Writers logo.

    Sue, what, where? I can see no capitol building!

  9. I think USA Today is very clever and the best of the lot here. Not only does it make you see something that isn’t there. It makes you ignore something that blatantly is there! (The odd shapes petruding from the ‘U’ and ‘A’)

  10. What about the Batman logo?

    A black bat or a yellow screaming mouth (well, a child’s one with 4 teeth).

  11. Favorites from the list: “Guild of food writers”, “FedEx”, “Egg n’ Spoon”, “Blade”, “Ehrhard Wine”, “Human”, and “Hartford Whalers”.

    David I remember seeing your “Ehrhart Wine” concept posted on your personal blog a while back. It’s quite suprising the client chose one of your other concepts over the creative wine and bottle design. Oh well, it still lives through blog posts like this one (and i’m sure your new book ;)

    Nice post.

  12. One of the best negative space roundups I have ever seen. They are all complete gems. Especially love hartford whalers and newcombe.

    Thanks for compiling, David!

  13. I really believe that it’s an art for a designer to create a successful logo using negative space and it’s an aspect of design that gets my mind up to all sorts of mental gymnastics. Great post, David!

  14. It’s hard to choose just ONE. These are very good logotypes!
    But right now if you ask me that…maybe I choose FedEx, because it’s so subtle that I didn’t notice the arrow until 3 or 4 years ago because someone told me. All these years I never knew there was an arrow in the “Ex”!

  15. Congratulations!
    Is a complete list where show the hard is not impossible!

    American Institute of Architects Center logo, hit logo, short, intense and comunicative!!!!!

  16. Always loved the MyFonts hand, but I totally not get the negative space in FedEx and must say that it looks awful. But no matter me liking it or not, why is FedEx in this list? :)

  17. I subscribe this logolovedesign site and i have to say that this is my most favorite post so far…They are unbelievable..i like the logo of “human” the most…it’s super!!!!

  18. Hello David.
    Once again thanks for the fine gallery of design essays. Interesting how many, me included have never noticed this and that isn’t it?

    Your selection brings to the forefront the essential thought in the creative process that the punters have difficulty in understanding.

    When you sight a logo for a few seconds, even though the objective may be a serious branding exercise, the question always arises; why so bloody expensive?

    I often wonder if we shouldn’t play around with ours.

    Take good care and remember to get all the joy you can everyday.
    Ps. I think our friend who wrote genius-ness ( bit like your wonderful Irish stout that) meant ingenuity.

  19. I really like the Egg n Spoon logo, as this is really a creative logo bcoz E defines both egg n spoon inside it.

  20. So clever in its simplicity, love these, although thats not to say they are easy to create, takes time on most occasions, admire some of these creations. Plenty of favourites in there.

  21. Negative space is always difficult to incorporate in logos, but looking at this list of examples it is surprising just how many excellent and well known logos there are out there.

    Amongst them I’d have to say that FedEx and the WWF have two of the most recognisable logos in the world, so maybe this illustrates that when used well negative space can be very successful.

    I would be interested to know what year each logo was designed, especially those two. They all seem to have a time-less quality to them by their simple nature; you certainly couldn’t pin them down to a particular era. I seem to recall that FedEx have had the same logo for years, so maybe using negative space is also a solution to needing a logo rehash every decade!

  22. Hi Ray, thanks for your concern but ‘genius-ness’ was indeed what I intended on typing. Call it light-hearted tomfoolery, you could even stretch it (considerably) to humour, but it was an intentional misuse of the English language.

    Thanks for the proof-reading though; glad you’ve got my back ;)

    And David, very well done on the 7,000 hits in the first 3hrs on this post! Goodness knows how many you’re up to now.

  23. “Guild of Food Writers logo” is genius! But most of them are awesome – but i don’t get the WWF logo – it’s a cute panda and with lots of imagination i could spot a ‘W’ or two, but where is the ‘F’ ?

  24. Thanks for the props, Martin. And for all the comments from every one else.

    Since this post was published 24 hours it has received 45,000 views. Not too shabby.

    Keith, I would’ve added the F1 logo, but the last time I showed it here, I was asked to remove it due to copyright. Strange, but hey.

    Andi, you’re looking too hard at the WWF logo. It’s not a monogram. Just a panda.

  25. There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning to discover a new post on Logo Design Love waiting in my Inbox. Thanks for sharing, David. Funny thing, the college I went to is about 2 miles down the street from Vanderbilt.

  26. It is certainly difficult to choose a favorite logo from the ones here. Negative space is a great way to convey a message, however to properly pull it off is rather difficult. The designers of the above logos all deserve props for the great job they did incorporating negative space.

    Tessa Carroll
    VBP OutSourcing

  27. I’ve just added a few more credits to the designs. Thanks for your help, Brendan, Jeff, and Chris.

    Marc, thanks also for commenting. It was actually Lindon who designed the logo, albeit while at Landor, so you’re right to mention the agency, and I’ve updated the logo credit to reflect it.

  28. I love all of these, negative space is lots of fun. If I had to pick a favorite, it might be Yoga Australia. Like many others, I’ve looked at the FedEx logo hundreds of times and never noticed the arrow, so that wins points for subtelty (and creativity).

    Thanks for posting these, I enjoyed them all.
    Daniel

    PS. David, I do like your Henri Ehrhart monogram quite a bit.

  29. well, this is a collection of well done and concise logo’s. Some seem not to have a great effort behind the elaboration as others show a lot work. Of course that they all required a lot of pacience and work.

    I’m divided between Ryan Biggs Associates logo, Premier catering logo and mouse logo. My decisions are influnced by my interest in typography… :)

    great post by the way.

  30. One great one that is not mentioned is the Big Ten logo. (college football) because there are 11 teams in the Big Ten conference, they designer put the number 11 in the negative space.

  31. Very nice collection. I’m glad other people like the USA network logo as much as I do.

    The two on there I really liked the most were SinkIt and the Food Writer’s guild (which are what, restaurant critics?).

  32. I believe so, Bevans.

    Thanks for the comments, folks. And Scott, good of you to explain the Big Ten logo. I wondered why there was an eleven in there.

  33. I’ve never liked the Mouse one! I see what they were doing, I just think it could have been done a bazillion times better.

  34. I love that Sink it logo, but I think the conception and ED logos are the most efficient.
    I was looking for the old Southern California Edison(SCE) logo, but I couldnt find it. The letters are arranged to look like a plug and I never noticed it until my Graphic Design instructor pointed it out.

  35. Some great logos here.

    I’ve always thought a successful logo should work without color or effect first to really be strong.

    Also…
    The ED logo while effective and simple…
    Has been soooo overplayed, unlike any other logo idea I’ve ever seen. Nearly every electrical company from Sacramento to Boston has used the negative space of E for an electrical plug.

  36. actually…
    I’ve never noticed the arrow in FedEx either…
    -that may be a sign that it’s not really working (as intended).

  37. Wow, some of these are just ingenious. Negative space is one of the trickiest things to pull off, but man…when it works, it works!

  38. jtchurch – I couldn’t agree more. What’s the point in having the arrow in the logo if no one can see it? What they should have done is just put the arrow next to the type, much bigger too, possibly in black…

  39. These are all great. I love the food writers logo. It’s a very elegant solution. I’m also a fan of the Hartford Whalers logo. I find it very crisp.

  40. I LOVE negative space.

    Lately when designing I’ve tried hard to create something clever using negative space but always fail to find a way of doing it ….one day maybe, one day.

    Try, try and try again they say. It’s like my eyes just can’t see the opportunity in negative space.

    My favs out of those are Nexcite, Ogden, Egg n Spoon, Sink It, Ed and Knoll.

    And, OMG I’ve done something similar to the use of the M in Premier Catering myself (http://www.trulyace.com/blog/design-projects/olympian-mindset-identity-design-project/) – literally only about two weeks ago.

    Oh well, that harks back to my words about simplicity and originality struggling to co-exist in the fullest sense of the word – http://www.trulyace.com/blog/thoughts-on-design/can-originality-simplicity-co-exist/

    Nice list! :)

    Amanda

  41. Great use of negative space is definitely an art. I have to say the WWF logo is still one of my all-time favorites. It is creative simplicity at its best!

    Thanks for the list!

  42. I grew up in France and am very familiar with the Carrefour logo, and yet NEVER even noticed the negative space until you mentioned it! :)
    My favourite has got to be the Yoga Australia one, close second Egg & Spoon!

    Thanks for the post x

  43. Great selection of logos. Negative space is definitely something that is very difficult to work with, so kudos to the designers.

    I’m a fan of the ones that are a little more subtle. There’s that “ah ha” moment when you finally recognize something within the logo and just think, “wow, brilliant!”

    Not necessarily utilizing negative space, but I had a similar moment when I first realized the Milwaukee Brewers logo was an M and B.

    Also, you guys should check out the new hertz logo by Landor. It’s a nice evolution of where they were.

  44. I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say your Henri Erhart monogram employs negative space in the way most (all?) of the other logos you present here do.

    The black lines portray both the letters and the wine glass and bottle, whilst the white space does nothing – other than represent an absence of black!

    (I’m not making a comment about the quality of the design – I just don’t think it is an example of negative space)

  45. Michael, I think you’re right that my design doesn’t compare to the other examples, but you’ll be pushed to find any wine bottles that come in halves. And in that respect, I consider the negative space from the uppercase E to give enough indication that it’s also a bottle.

  46. Always worthwhile checking your site out David, so much you share freely with others in your humble and fashionable manner.

    This post on negative space logos is one of many favorites!

    – Raja Sandhu

    PS: Nice to see Roy Smith’s logo work in there!

    PSS: your’s too David ;)

  47. My fav. is the recycle one from Taiwan… the blade one i didnt get till a second glance at the letter a.

  48. Surely had a friendly chuckle at the timeless FedEx example; but I think my favourites are the Martin Newcombe and Guild of Food writers.
    Overall, wonderful selection, thank you!

  49. My grandfather pointed the arrow in the FedEx logo out to me quite a few years ago and now I see it every time I look at it, almost to the point where it bothers me!

  50. Definitely the Recycle Taiwan one. I couldn’t stop staring at it, watching it flip-flop.

    If you look at just the white space, it’s just diagonal crosshairs with a little white curve attached to each side.

    It’s simple, elegant…brilliant!

  51. I have lots of favorite but my top picks are ED, Guild and the Recycle. Even at their simplest, the designs are astonishing and clever.

  52. no pun intended David, concerning the “case” choice for the bottle?

    You know, there are lessons for everyone from you and your work.
    Not only about design but about how people should treat each other.
    Take bloody good care and continue to get all the joy you can every day.
    Thanks again.

  53. For me, definitely my favorite is the Egg n Spoon logo (logo in monogram). It’s like a logo in a logo. I also really like Premiere Catering (tux), Hartford Whalers (graphic monogram and whale tail), and Yoga Australia (country). Thanks for this article!

  54. I love the WWF logo – always have.

    I also just had an ‘aaah’ moment; I hadn’t noticed the arrow on the FedEx logo before :)

    Thanks for compiling the list.

  55. To be honest I think I will personally scream if I see that FedEx logo mentioned in any more blogs …. don’t know how everyone else feels.

    Perhaps David feels the same way about it.

  56. Really good collection!!
    Thank you very much. I’ll try to improve my design now with this ideas.
    Big thank you!

  57. Beautiful little things, aren’t they? And only humans can perceive them.

    I have always appreciated the clever use of negative space in design. They just make a logo so much more interesting.

  58. The arrow in the fedex logo has always been a favorite. I also love the arrows in the 20×200.com logo.

    That whalers logo is new to me. Pretty awesome.

  59. I’ll always love the WWF logo – it’s classic. I also love the simplicity of the USA network logo – it’s just perfect.

    I also never noticed the arrow in the FedEx logo – as many times as I’ve seen it! (was a “doh!” moment) Glad I wasn’t the only one who had been missing it!

    Very good examples. I didn’t get the Yoga one (I guess it’s supposed to be Australia in the gap of her arm/leg?) And I didn’t see the hand in the MyFonts logo either. I love seeing compilations like this. It spurs the creativity.

  60. The mouse logo is my favorite, followed by the Egg n Spoon logo. I like how the product is displayed on the logo itself for the first, and the smoothness of the second.

  61. Hi, I am Dezayner, I love the human logo, especially the white space. It is sperm cell, isn’t it?
    @Nikhil, I think in “my fonts” logo, the white space is a shape like ‘a hand’. Correct me if I wrong.

  62. great use of negative space. my favorite was the “eaton” logo. It inspires me for the logo design I am working on right now.

  63. Great collection.
    Of course foodwriters guild is my hands down favourite, and a step above the rest in my humble opinion. I completely don’t get the WWF though, it baffles me. @David Airey – if it’s “just a panda” then there is no secret reveal, i.e. no clever use of negative space? Rather it is a well crafted piece of positive space??
    @ Josef – I can’t see a skull either?
    Great set though and brilliant to see all together.

  64. Jordan, it’s the negative space that completes the image of the panda. Try looking at the back-leg in isolation. Looks like a strange shape, but add some negative space formed by the semi-border of the front-half, et voila.

  65. Not sure if anyone mentioned this, but the BigTen logo from the U.S. college football league is a brilliant example of problem solving using negative space.

    In the early 1990s the BigTen league expanded from 10 to 11 members, making the logo and name someone obsolete. Instead of changing the name, a numerical eleven was carved out of the text: BigTen, in between the G and the T.

    A brilliant solution. The problem now is that the league is thinking about expanding to 12 or 14 members. Let’s see how they solve that problem visually!

    Check it out:

    http://gridirongoddess.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/big-ten-logo.jpg

  66. Wow, those are some wonderful examples! I’ve always really liked the WWF logo. Previously, I’d never seen the My Fonts logo… very clever! It seems that the use of negative space really adds a “timelessness” to logos, as fonts and colors can lose favor, but a quality, striking image lasts. Thanks for the collection!

  67. I love the Guild of Food Writers logo! that´s the best one!
    So simple, a little shy so you have to look with a straight eye and then.. understand it right away!

    I agree with you that your Henri Ehrhart monogram works with the ngative space from the uppercase E.

    And Paul.. I love your logo too!

    Thank you David for this great collection!

  68. Ah the whalers logo is one of the best. I’m from hartford and I sure wish the whalers were still around

  69. Excellent collection of logos using negative space. Difficult to choose my fave but I liking the yoga Australia one.

  70. Feels kinda a stupid when I realized that though I had seen the My font hand earlier, I never saw the arrow in fedex. Now I wonder how I could I not notice the most obvious thing in my office.
    Good post

  71. Loves the Knoll logo! So cute, and yet its great in graphics. Thanks for sharing this, I was just told about this website, and in complete love with it right now! Keep up the good work! ;)

  72. I think the Ryan Biggs one is pretty clever – simple yet effective. Some of them you have to look at a little more closely to see the hidden meanings/messages/images (like the Yoga Australia one).

  73. Who knew that simple could be so effective, but yet there is definitely a complexity to each design. The “hidden pictures” are cool, but the logos themselves are effective and memorable.

  74. This is inspiring! It’s giving me great ideas about how to incorporate something from an old logo into a new one without just changing the external shape.

    I have always loved the USA, and Hartford Whalers logos!

  75. Great collection of logos. I especially like the yoga one and the American Institute of Architects Center logo.

  76. How about the Big Ten logo (hiding a “12” inside the letters for the number of teams).

  77. The entire collection is very inspiring!

    You should also check the Toblerone logo, well, the chocolate is my favorite.

  78. I love working with negative space, tho I do not yet have a lot of experience it is nice to see a lot of pieces in one place as examples of how much can be done with it.

  79. That is some VERY clever use of negative space. Graphic designers are much more creative than I thought.

  80. Hey I think you should add the forumla 1 logo. It uses the space between the F and the next shape to create a 1. :)

  81. The Hartford logo is my favorite. That’s a hand on the MyFonts logo? That is the most hideous hand i have ever seen.

  82. The conception logo is just underneath the name ‘cummings & good’. I couldn’t help thinking this could have also been a great logo for them. Perhaps the G for ‘Good’ could have been made from a sperm with a wonky tail?

  83. Negative space is brilliant, but it applies to branding on all levels. Black with just audio on a TV spot… silence in a radio commercial… it has applications beyond the visual.
    Rock ‘n roll has some great examples of white space. The Beatles famous “White Album” is probably the most obvious example. Led Zeppelin released Zeppelin IV with no name or title on it, which is certainly a form of negative space. Likewise with Metallica’s “Black Album”.
    Anything that intrigues because of what is lacking is, to me, negative space.

  84. WOW! Great use of negative space in logo design – never saw such a collection! I freaked out when I saw the hand in the my fonts logo – wow! Didn’t even see it until another commenter pointed it out. And the -> in Fedex has been there all this while? No way! The Guild of Food writers is Genius! And I didn’t get the Henri Eckhart logo @ first, bt then I went back and saw that the E was 3/4ths of a wine bottle! Amazing! The Yoga australia has the australian map in it, right? In between the lady’s leg and arm? Amazing stuff here, Dave. And Thanks for stopping by my site to give me some much needed advice. Working on it, definitely. Thanks a lot for this – I’m inspired! Working on a logo design presently, and this collection is inspiring! Thanks again.

  85. These are fabulous. Myfonts seems a little less compelling, although cool in itself. Love the Malcolm Grear designs (one of my favorite designers). The ED electrical plug is wunderbar!

  86. I recently designed a logo similar to some of the these and found a bit of a problem when used on different backgrounds and had to add some white around the edges like the nbc logo has on coloured backrounds. It would be interesting to see these logo used on different colours in different contexts to see how they work.

  87. Great selection of logos, David, thanks for compiling such a big source of inspiration. The Human logo is my personal favourite.

  88. Malcolm Grear is the most amazing designer of all time to master the art of negative space – form and counterform – in the mark-making arena.
    Hands down.

  89. Negative-space logos are just wonderful, and has great semantic value, because once you see that trick in logo, you never forget it :)

    And I was very surprised to see MyFonts logo here, I was wondering and wondering what it has in it’s negative space … but once I found out it is a hand, I will never forget it.

    @Robert: I like the concept of a present that was done with two arrows, also love the word-play, but the colour combination personaly I don’t think it’s suited. I would go less ‘CMYK’ and more natural, because there are ‘natural values’ that represents the idea of a changing present nowdays … if you know what I mean, I hope I didn’t complicate it too much :)

    And as a reply, here is my logo in negative space (it has hidden S in a letter Ž – those letters are initials of my name and last name):
    http://zetko.si/stran-v-prenovi.png

    Regards,
    Sebastian

  90. Really love these. I have seen a couple before but my favourite out of this collection is Ogden Plumbing logo.

    It still amazes me the number of people who don’t see the arrow in the FEDEX logo.

    I wish I had thought of doing something like this for my own company.

  91. I can’t design logos to save my life, but could spent hours a day looking at them. I think logos that involve negative space are the ones that wow me the most. Although it’s really simple, I love the USA logo – so much so I find myself very distracted by the logo in the bottom right corner of the screen when I’m watching the channel. Great list, never gets old!

  92. One thing I believe that has not been mentioned about the Ford logo is that the “font” used is an adptation of Mr. Ford’s actual signature. Google “Henry Ford signature” and you’ll see what I mean.

  93. Thank you for posting this amazing collection. I agree it’s hard to pick a favorite, but when I saw the Yoga Australia logo, I drew in a quick breath – its brilliance took me by surprise.

  94. 5 years on and they still look brilliant. A great compilation of negative space logos. They’re all brilliant but Recycle Taiwan and Knoll are my favourties here!

    Thanks for compiling, David!

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