How to Effectively Incorporate Negative Space to Create Eye-Catching Art, With Examples

Posted on July 11, 2024 | Updated on July 11, 2024

While every design has some sort of negative space, not all of them use it effectively. Luckily, learning how to create negative space art is straightforward — web, logo and graphic designers only need to master the basics to see progress.

What Is Negative Space in Design?

Positive space is the subject or area of interest. On the other hand, negative space is the empty area around the subject or in between objects. Artists, graphic designers and small business owners can use them strategically to create interesting projects.

Micro negative space is the gaps beside letters, between lines of text and around small design elements like icons or buttons. On the other hand, macro negative space is the emptiness surrounding larger layout elements.

While most people assume negative space in graphic design must be white, it doesn’t have to be — it can be any color. It can even have a texture or pattern as long as it is not the image’s focal point. This little-known fact is helpful because it grants artists’ more creative freedom.

Why Do Artists Use Negative Space?

The purpose of using negative space in art is to balance, organize, highlight or frame. Artists, graphic designers and marketers can use it to make their layout look less cluttered, direct the viewer’s attention to certain areas and make their design look more refined — even when they don’t utilize it intentionally. 

In addition to making text more readable, design elements less cluttered and visuals more striking, negative space can also subtly affect viewers’ behaviors. For example, a purchase button that has a blank border or sits alone in an empty area is more noticeable, which may drive sales.

How to Effectively Use Negative Space in Art

Negative space in art typically appears naturally since most designers don’t fill in every single bit of emptiness. In other words, incorporating it effectively to create eye-catching art takes effort:

1. Don’t Overdo It

Negative space in art is generally only visually interesting if it is creative or engaging. Moreover, in logo and web design, it is only effective when used strategically. In other words, less is more. Designers should consider when — and to what extent — they use emptiness in their project. 

Considering viewers make decisions about a website within one-tenth of a second, effectively utilizing negative space in graphic design is essential for conversions and visitor retention. Sparingly using white margins, padding or borders is ideal.

2. Utilize Grouping

Professionals should consider using negative space in art to group elements together visually. Utilizing borders and padding can make similar icons, buttons or product images stand out. This way, they can subconsciously affect how their audience views their image or navigates their site.

3. Be Intentional

True white is the most common background color for a reason — it increases readability and looks clean. However, other colors have unique benefits, too. Professionals should consider using various colors, shapes and styles instead of defaulting to white.

They should also intentionally experiment with their use of negative space to achieve their goal, whether they want to increase conversions or direct attention toward product pages. If they are creative, they can switch focus between their positive and negative space designs.

Examples of Negative Space in Logo Design

Logos are an excellent resource for finding great examples of negative space in graphic design since they’re simple and common. Plus, many skilled designers create and sell mockups online.

The WWF logo
Source: https://www.worldwildlife.org/

The World Wide Fund for Nature — an international wilderness preservation organization — has an infamous negative space logo in the shape of a panda. It cleverly uses its background to fill in the animal’s white fur. 

The FedEx logo
Source: https://www.fedex.com/en-us/home.html

FedEx, the multinational logistics conglomerate, also uses its background to create a shape. The space where the “E” and “x” connect forms an arrow — a nod to the company’s involvement in getting a package from one place to another. 

The Guild of Food Writers logo
Source: https://www.gfw.co.uk/

The Guild of Food Writers — a professional association of food writers — uses positive and negative space to create two separate designs. At first glance, the logo looks like the tip of a fountain pen. Upon closer inspection, however, the breather hole is revealed to be a spoon.

The Amazon logo
Source: https://press.aboutamazon.com/logos

Like FedEx, Amazon uses white space to create an arrow. The major difference is that it uses emptiness to separate the tip from the shaft, making a smirk. This clever use of negative space in art enables them to improve brand recognition — Kindle and Fire TV, among other services, share the design element. 

The NBC logo
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBC_logo

The National Broadcasting Company is a commercial television and radio network. Its colorful logo is supposed to look like a brightly-hued peacock — a nod to color programming. The inverse white teardrop and white borders represent its body and feathers.

Examples of Negative Space in Web Design

Most business owners utilize negative space when designing their website — even if they don’t realize it. Many landing pages reflect these principles.

Walmart's website
An effective use of borders and grouping. Source: https://www.walmart.com/

Walmart is a good example of negative space in web design because it relies heavily on grouping — it separates different departments and deals by using white padding and borders. Even though the page is visually busy, spacing those elements out prevents cluttering.

Bocce's website
Proof negative space doesn’t have to be white. Source: https://www.boccesbakery.com/

Bocce’s Bakery, a pet food provider, recently received a 9.8 rating from our Designerly Awards. Its use of negative space between lines of text, beside product images and within buttons strategically directs viewers’ attention, driving conversions. 

Microsoft's website
An example of micro and macro negative space. Source: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/

Microsoft extensively uses macro negative space to keep every icon, tab and button highly visible. Everything a customer might want to do on the website is easy to see at first glance, but the layout isn’t overwhelming — thanks to the balance emptiness provides. 

TikTok's website
An example of negative space driving conversions. Source: https://www.tiktok.com/login

TikTok’s desktop login page is a good example of how to use negative space in graphic design to achieve a goal. Having each option separated highlights their importance. Even the “Sign up” button has a thick, empty border and is the only text on the bottom of the page.

Rolling Stone's website
How negative space organizes and reduces visual clutter. Source: https://www.rollingstone.com/

Rolling Stone’s digital magazine is an excellent example of negative space in web design. Its strategic utilization of emptiness prevents viewers from feeling overwhelmed despite being presented with so many options. 

Using Negative Space in Art Effectively

Striking a balance between a blank background and a page full of design elements is easier than it seems. If designers strategically utilize negative space to frame, organize or highlight objects, they will likely improve their project visually and make it more enticing to viewers.

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About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

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