6 thoughts on “What are the Benefits of Negative Space for Designers and Artists?”

  1. Hi Hannie,

    Again you wrote a very insightful article. I work a lot with designers and artists. But they must have kept this ‘empty space’ secret for me. This is the first time I read about it. At least when it comes to art and design.

    In literature, another one of my preoccupations, ‘empty space’ is a very common practice. Poets and novel writers use it for several purposes. For example, often many everyday and obvious types of behavior, such as washing, going to the toilet, eating, and drinking are left out. When a novelist would reproduce all human actions, no matter how detailed, his or her books would become very tedious.

    The use of time in a novel is also a way to emphasize specific activities. Most of the timing of a novel is ‘empty space’ because it’s left out. Even when a story does not last for more than a couple of hours, most of this time is left out. The bigger the timespan of a novel, the more time is left out.

    Poets are great with empty space. They use metaphors to express how ‘empty’ all other meanings are. Take for instance this key sentence from a poem of the Anglo-American poet Auden: ‘Bring in the coffin, let the mourners come.’ This is no doubt a reference to a very serious event. Yet in the poem, it is unclear what happened to who and when.

    Positive-negative is also often used by poets and novelists, to express contrasts between spatial environments, protagonists, and activities. However, figure-ground-reversal is a less common practice in novels. In poems, it’s often used. Often, poems can be explained from various opposing viewpoints.

    As you can read, you wrote a very inspiring article. It reminds me to read poems and novels more carefully.

    Thanks again.

    • This is absolutely marvellous, Richard, thank you so much! You opened my eyes as well. I never made a connection between negative space in art and negative space in poetry and literature. LOL, I have to read more poems now as well. 🙂

  2. This is very interesting, Hannie! I have never heard before about negative space. Reading your article has given me great insight, and I understand it now very well.
    I think graphic design must be a lot of fun. Using your creativity creates unique designs, and studying art opens the mind.
    I only noticed the arrow in FedEx now because you pointed to it; I have never been aware of the arrow. Funny! Of course, I often saw these images where you get two different pictures, but I didn’t know this is a positive and negative space. Very interesting! I learned something new! 🙂

    • It’s like discovering a whole new world, isn’t it, Sylvia? And you’re right, I really had a lot of fun when I still had my graphic design studio. Occasionally, I still design stuff of course, but never anymore for paying customers. This adds to the fun because, to be honest, customers didn’t always want something new and unexpected, even though they asked for it. 🙂

      Did you ever notice the line below the Amazon logo is a smile? Nowadays it’s more obvious because they use the smile at times separate from the logotype. Not negative space, of course, but also something I only noticed because someone pointed it out to me!

      Thanks for your comment and I am really glad I could teach you something. 🙂

  3. Grappig, ja. Ik had er helemaal niet meer aan gedacht, maar ik had inderdaad ook die associatie in het begin!

  4. Waarnemingsillusie: en zo kwam ik er pas héél veel later achter dat de 'richtingaanwijzer' naar de Carrefoursuper geen pijl was, maar een uitgespaarde C. Carrefour gebruikt in Frankrijk haar logo trouwens op borden met soms een pijl er onder die de tegengestelde rijrichting aanwijst… Dat hier in Belgie veel klanten van dat concern de weg kwijt zijn, en C-medewerkers hun baan, zou dat er mee hebben te maken?

    Rein van Gisteren


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