Logo Design Visual Technique #7: Negative Shapes

A. Michael Shumate

A. Michael Shumate

Most letters have negative shapes or counters in them. They are more malleable than the positive parts of letterforms and provide chances to create a double entendre while leaving the core letterform recognizable and readable. Many other images also can have both positive and negative shapes, such as those you might develop using the four conceptual approaches (see my posts on logo concepts). Why not combine the techniques? See what the counters of the letters remind you of. Look at the elements you associate with the company activity, ideals or name. Those concepts, too, have negative shapes. You need to be open to a certain amount of visionary frolicking to let these ideas emerge (that’s why you should not conceptualize on the computer). In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you consider the result a Negative Shape or a Unique Coincidence (Visual Technique #4), as long as you find the potential magic.

Here is where broad exploration bears fruit from earlier self-brainstorming. This is also where you will see the value of not editing during your concept generation, but rather, jotting down all the concepts that come to mind. When you combine a negative shape with a solid shape, a concept that might have looked lightweight, trite or even cheesy at the early stages can turn into a stroke of genius.

Negative shapes allow a visual double entendre. If you were working with only the positive shapes, it could look too contrived, forced or just unclear.

Adapted from Logo Design Theory: How Branding Design Really Works

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