Graphic Design Principles: Top Tips to Apply Negative Space in Your Design

We frequently believe that being silent, empty, or colorless is harmful to us. Without realizing it, we take them for granted even though they provide a sturdy base of contrast. The value of the sound can only be understood in stillness. We can only comprehend what we want to fill a space with. When colors are displayed on stage, only colorlessness allows us to perceive them as brighter and more vibrant. Only the absence of air can tell us how important it is. Today, we’re going to discuss air in design. Let’s talk about the space.

1. Negative Space:

Negative space also referred to as white space, is the section of the design that is left empty. It could be not just inside and between the items you’ve placed in the arrangement, but also surrounding and around them. For all the elements on the page or screen, negative space serves as a sort of breathing area. Gestalt principles, not only establish the boundaries of the objects but also forge the connections between them that are required for efficient visual performance. White space is a legitimate design feature that has a significant impact on a positive user experience as a result.

According to Mads Soegaard of the Interaction Design Foundation, “negative space is like a canvas: it’s the background that keeps the parts in a design together while allowing them to stand out.” In graphic design, negative space is frequently used in logos, illustrations, posters, and creative writing where it plays an active role in the visual presentation and enhances the expressiveness of important visual elements.

For instance, the moon in the blog graphic below fulfills the job of contrasting negative space, giving the astronaut a more vibrant and dynamic appearance. Negative space plays a major role in the usability and navigability of the interface when it comes to designing user interfaces for websites and mobile apps. The area between layout elements and inside them (for letter and stroke elements) is referred to as micro space, whereas the space surrounding them is known as macro space.

Negative space: Why Is It Important?

Imagine entering a room that is crowded with numerous employees. Stacks of books and clothing, cartons and bags, and a cluttered desk are all present. Will you be able to focus under such circumstances? Are all those items necessary right now? How long will it take and will you be able to find what you need? That’s pretty much how users feel when they open a page or screen without the necessary amount of white space.

Clients and some designers can desire to cram as many components and functionalities as they can onto a single page or screen in the hopes that doing so will win the game and benefit the client. But that’s incorrect because people don’t require everything at once. Furthermore, having too many elements without appropriate space dramatically increases the amount of distraction because users will have to work harder to identify the elements they DO need because they are bombarded with information and interactive elements, the majority of which they DON’T require. If everything shouts for your viewer’s attention, nothing is heard.

We could list the following advantages of thoughtful use of negative space in design: 

  • it supports page scannability;
  • it improves visual hierarchy; 
  • it makes the connections between the elements visible and naturally perceived without the use of additional tools like tables, frames, or arrows; 
  • it provides enough space on the page so that it didn’t feel cluttered; 
  • it focuses the user’s attention on key elements and lowers the level of distraction; 
  • it adds style.

The following user experience elements may be significantly impacted by effectively using negative space.

Graphic Design Principles: Top Tips to Apply Negative Space in Your Design
Source: Behance

Readability and legibility:
If there is not enough room between the elements, it is difficult to read them and it takes more work to read them. Even though many users won’t be able to formulate the issue, it may be a significant cause of eye and brain tension. This issue is resolved and the process becomes more natural when there is an appropriate quantity of negative space, especially micro space. Therefore, negative space has a direct impact on how effectively typography reads on a page or screen. Pauses serve the same purpose as tones in music. Similar principles apply when reading properly positioned empty spaces making the text simpler to understand.

If you look at any logo guidelines, you’ll see that designers establish the right amount of negative space around a logo to have it be perceived correctly. Visual performance is negatively impacted by breaking these criteria.
Visual performance is negatively impacted by breaking these criteria.

Graphic Design Principles: Top Tips to Apply Negative Space in Your Design
Source: Dribbble

Nature of the resource:
A negative space’s nature affects what is commonly referred to as design tone. The front page of a news resource, for instance, will have less white space than a blog to create the impression that the platform is full of dynamically appearing data.

Graphic Design Principles: Top Tips to Apply Negative Space in Your Design
Source: Behance

Attention ratio:
To maximize visual hierarchy and facilitate user concentration on the important parts, there should be sufficient negative space.

Based on this, negative space influences how people perceive visual elements including identification, navigation, and graphic and copy content.

Graphic Design Principles: Top Tips to Apply Negative Space in Your Design
Source: Behance

2. How to Apply Negative Space in Your Design?

  1. Play mind games on the onlooker.
    To trick the reader’s imagination, negative space is used in logos. In actuality, it is also employed to convey a deeper level of meaning that may not be as clear in the initial few seconds of seeing the logo.
  2. Create negative space inside a letter.
    The Oscars logo is among the best illustrations of a logo that adds negative space inside a letter.
    Here is a quick overview of the various components of the logo that combine to provide a thoughtful negative space:
    The iconic Oscars award makes use of the negative white space and is set against a gold triangle that doubles up as the letter, ‘A.’
    To make a connection between the monogram letter in the negative space and the well-known brand name Academy, the letter A has been gently bolded in the logo text.
    Play with the layers when employing letters to make positive and negative spaces to make sure they don’t look out of scale.
  3. Use shapes to creatively fill in negative space.
    Shapes can be utilized to quickly communicate a message to onlookers. The procedure is as follows:
    Choosing the alphabet you want to use is the first step.
    Step 2: Locate the space surrounding it.
    Step 3 is to cut out the shape from the letter and draw it on paper.
    Step 4: Create a concept based on the shape you just retrieved.
    Step 5: Create a cool logo by utilizing the space.
    Shapes should always be used in logo designs, whether they are 3D geometric shapes or flat designs created by warping proportions.
  4. Play around with overlapping and negative spaces.
    Use the idea of “overlapping” if you want to create a clever negative space in your logo design. Here is how it would operate:
    Consider two things you want to employ that are overlapping each other to start.
    Step 2: To create an overlapping opportunity, designate one object as the positive space and the other as the negative space.
  5. Use shadows strategically.
    Another way to add interesting negative space to your logo design is by using shadows. What you can do is follow this procedure:
    First, mentally picture a 3D item.
    Place the thing in front of a single light source so that one side is lighted and the other is in darkness.
    Step 3: Use the highlighted portion as the positive space and the darkened portion as the negative space (or vice versa) to help you understand how to move forward with your logo design.
  6. Include text within the picture.
    Utilizing the negative space around your logo image, you may incorporate text or words inside of it—a novel technique.

Risks to Take into Account while using negative space:

  1. Confusing terminology
    Make sure to define negative space before describing the design solution when speaking to clients who may not be well-versed in design terminology. The completely black background and the negative space may make it difficult for someone who is not a designer to grasp why “this screen needed more white space,” but this is not the case. Therefore, before utilizing the terms, remember to cross all your i’s.
  2. Want to display more content into the page or screen by eliminating white space?
    It occurs outside of the realm of user interface design as well. For example, an architect may explain why there needs to be open space around a building for it to look and function better, or an interior designer may advise a client to save some space by placing fewer bookcases in a room if they want four instead of two. Additionally, occasionally rearranging the parts to make greater use of negative space gives the appearance that a space is larger than it is. This same effect may be seen when data needs to be displayed on a mobile screen or website. To guide the user naturally, decide what is more crucial, what is secondary, and what may be cut. Even if the screen or page is filled to the brim with data and functions, negative space will aid in creating a harmonious appearance.
  3. Poor prioritization
    If a well-considered information architecture doesn’t support an interface, negative space won’t work as a panacea. You must decide how the user will utilize an app or website to solve his or her problem before you can even begin to consider the design skin. Plan this approach before creating the aesthetics for displaying it; otherwise, even the ideal harmony of visual components, including negative space, won’t function well.

3. 5 Good Examples of Applying Negative Space in Design

  1. Have a character
    The logo for this “Boom! Burger” logo is the company’s food item. Cows have spots, which are often black and white, as we all know. They made a play on this fact by putting the type inside the cow. You can even see that the tail serves as an exclamation mark if you look closely.

2. Make it work
Why does a zoo’s emblem feature a lone tree? Well, if you look at the logos for the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium a bit more closely, you’ll notice that the area around the tree forms a gorilla and what appears to be a lioness. Is anything else that you can see?

3. The Testimonies
Noma Bar is renowned for using negative space in his illustrations, and the cover he made for Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments is no different. You can spot another figure hiding if you look attentively at the hooded figure’s robe, for instance. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood features a striking book cover created by Bar.

4. Cut-Outs
Batman squares off against the Penguin in this fantastic picture by graphic artist Simon C. Page. The artwork, which is a part of his Cut-Out series, skillfully uses negative space to represent the two characters. Danny Devito’s Penguin can be recognized right away by his bald head and long, pointed nose, which in turn makes Michael Keaton’s Batman stand out in a striking silhouette.

5. FedEx
Without mentioning possibly the most well-known application of negative space in a logo, this list would fall short. Once you’ve noticed it, the white arrow in the FedEx logotype between the letters E and X is impossible to forget. The logo, which was created by Lindon Leader in 1994, has earned numerous design honors and is frequently mentioned in lists of the “greatest logos.”

Graphic Design Principles: Top Tips to Apply Negative Space in Your Design
Source: The FedEx logo


Even if it’s been said before, it has to be repeated. Remember that there are other colors in negative space besides black and white. It might be any color under the sun. If anything, adding additional drama to the design may be achieved by using different colors for your negative space. Consider arranging a row of vividly colored lemons on a background of beautiful blue. Or by displaying a picture of a young woman dressed in yellow and blue next to a shimmering green wall.

Don’t be scared to experiment with color. Why not do it if it’s the most effective approach to bring drama to the design? Finally, the usage of negative space will be determined by the designer’s grasp of human nature. You must learn how to grasp how people see things visually and how to perform tricks on their eyes to capture their interest. There are no hard and fast rules to follow, and it all depends on how daring you want to be.

Finally, keep in mind that space is not always a bad thing in design. If a single dot in the middle of a wide blank expanse is all that is required to express your message, then so be it. Find more examples of negative space on illustAC.

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