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Using negative space in design


The lesson will introduce students to the use of negative space in design. After defining positive and negative space, students will research logos online that utilize positive and negative space effectively.

There is also a middle school version of this lesson.


  • Students will distinguish between positive and negative space.
  • Students will produce samples of positive and negative space.
  • Students will apply their knowledge of positive and negative space to identify real world examples.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2a Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information so that each new element builds on that which precedes it to create a unified whole; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)


90 minutes


Handout: Negative space sample 1

Handout: Negative space sample 2

Handout: Logo ranking sheet

Computers with Internet access

Lesson step-by-step

1. Introduction — 15 minutes

Distribute Negative Space Samples. Conduct guided note-taking using these definitions:

  • Positive space: the space occupied by a subject.
  • Negative space: the space around and between the subject of an image, graphic or layout. Negative space is in contrast to positive space, which will be the image, text or graphic.
  • It’s important to note that negative space does not always equate to white space. Color may used to create the negative space.

2. Skill development

Using Negative Space Sample 1, students will focus on the way negative space is utilized to distinguish the letters for the section. Looking more closely at the large photo and the secondary photo overlayed on it, we can see that the photo’s shape with the added triangle creates a line that travels parallel to the cutting board under the sandwich. In Negative Space Sample 2, students will see how the use of the ampersand and hashtags were used to create a unique border for the dividers. Next, students will research logos that effectively use negative space. Based on examples you selected in advance, conduct a brief discussion. For example, you could project the FedEx logo to show students the hidden arrow. After talking through a handful of examples as a class, students will search online for two logos. One logo should use white space to create negative space, and one logo should use color as negative space.

Students will print their logos, or post them to an online forum, as well as an explanation about how negative space is created within the design.


Students will share their printouts or posted logos with the class. As each student presents their logos, the other students will rank (Logo Ranking Sheet) the effectiveness of the logo based on three criteria: use of positive/negative space, interest, and depth of design. A logo that contains only positive space does not have the depth a logo with negative space creates.


 The teacher will review negative and positive space. Students will then share which logos they felt were the most effective using negative and positive space based on their evaluations.

Rubric- Logo Evaluation 

(0 points)
(5 points)
(10 points)
Use of positive/ negative space The design does not correctly portray positive and negative space. The resulting image/ object/ text is unidentifiable, ordinary and boring. The design somewhat demonstrates effective use of positive and negative space. The resulting image/ object/ text is mostly identifiable, original and interesting. The design clearly demonstrates effective use of positive and negative space. The resulting image/ object/ text is clearly identifiable, unique, and thought-provoking. ____ / 10
Interest The logo is ordinary and not very imaginative, and does not capture the reader’s attention. It is not memorable to the reader. The logo is unique and somewhat creative, but does not capture the reader’s attention. It is not very memorable to the reader. The logo captures the viewer’s attention, is creative and unique, and leaves an impression on the viewer. ____ / 10
Depth of design The design of the logo shows no depth, and is flat and uninspiring. The design attempts to portray a sense of depth, and is moderately imaginative. There are differing depths to the logo, and the more one looks at it, the more a viewer sees. It is inspiring and wondrous to view. ____ / 10
Total points ____ / 30