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The Power of Negative Space on Human Perception

Mar 17, 2023

The world is full of wide open spaces and tight corners. Yet when it comes to our efforts to communicate visually, we often forget that space serves a purpose. The proper use of space allows us to build associations between objects and make sense of the chaos. In design, we strive to eliminate chaos and confusion to create clear and concise messages for our clients.

Negative space is simply the empty space between things. Between leaves on a tree or between home and work. How we perceive and interpret those spaces is based in both the conscious and subconscious. As a design element, negative space must always be thoughtfully considered.

So now that we know negative space is. How should we use it in the design of branding and communications?

Gestalt Psychology Principles of Association:

One of the principles highlighted in Gestalt psychology2 defines how we create associations through proximity. By adjusting the negative space between elements to either associate or distinguish information and objects, we can utilize the psychological associations we inherently create in our minds. The role of negative space in building these appropriate bonds between elements of design are key to creating clear communications. Failing to consider these factors often lead to unforeseen confusion. This tool is particularly important in web design. Take a look at the web page below and how it uses negative space to create associations.

Negative Space in Layout:

Appropriate use of negative space around an object can increase its place in the visual hierarchy3 of the design. This effect is related to our psychological reaction to something “standing out.” When a large amount of  negative space is used to surround an element the typical impact is one that implies importance and draws the eye to it. For example, the negative space around a logo gives it prominence, drawing focus and attention to the brand.

An example of negative space use in web design layout.

Negative Space in Logo Design:

Negative space can be a powerful tool in the design of a logo1 capturing the eye in often unexpected ways. Notice the “A” in the logo below is making excellent use of negative space. The negative space brings focus to key design elements in the logo. The ramp or path leads us to the top of the “A” and implies movement toward the highest point, in support of the brand name APOGEE Real Estate Partners.

An example of negative space in logo design.

Readability and Legibility:

Negative space directly influences the efficiency of typography. The human eye can scan faster and comprehend more fully when we have optimal space between the letters in a sentence and the lines of text in a paragraph. Understanding this allows us to maximize the transfer of information. In today’s world of digital devices, this is an extremely powerful tool. At Pyper, we are committed to maximizing both readability and comprehension through careful attention to our clients typography and visual hierarchy.

Examples of bad and good typesetting.

In Conclusion:

At Pyper, our goal is always to clearly communicate with your target audience to meet marketing objectives. Our creative team always keeps an eye out for opportunities to utilize negative space in pursuit of that goal. Working with our experts to hone your brand message effectively can make a difference in your bottomline. Ready to start designing? We’re here to help!