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Negative space is one of those things like dark matter – it is out there, but too many people don’t know it is there, or what to make of it. But we all see it. One of the best, and most visible, examples is the FedEx logo. The negative space between the E and X form an arrow, pointing to the right, signifying progress.

Why use negative space? The answer is related to subliminal marketing – your brain sees the marker, the message, and files that away. Studies on subliminal effectiveness vary from ‘not at all’ to ‘total’. Pick your study. But the connection is there – and if there is a need to force a decision, that little bit of nudge can push the customer over the edge.

How? It creates what I describe as a ‘positive connection’. By relating the negative space to a positive impression, the brain is trained to like a certain thing. Since we, in the west, read left to right, moving to the right is seen as progress. So, by adding the impression of progress to the logo, FedEx created a positive connection between themselves and progress and moving forward.

Negative space is not a required design component for every project, but an awareness of it is – you need to be aware of what the space around your design is doing, to avoid sending the wrong message.