What Do You See?

It was my son, the artist who first taught me about “negative space” in art work. I was interested then and I am interested now.

“Negative space” is the space around and between the subjects of an image. It is considered most effective and evident when the space around the subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting shape.

Here’s a classic example to help you visualize it:

what do you see?
vase? 2 faces?

In the 1980’s, I was working for a very young company based in Memphis, who’s goal was to ship packages overnight everywhere in the world. They wanted to beat out UPS and USPS. The CEO’s name was Fred Smith and we affectionately called him Uncle Freddy.

In 2000 they changed their logo to this, one that I believe nearly everyone has seen:

They changed it to utilize the negative space between the E and the x. What do you see?

There between the E and the x is a white arrow, pointing to the right, and is meant to represent the idea of moving forward with speed and precision, much like the FedEx brand.

Brilliant use of negative space, right? Had you noticed it before?

Below I am going to insert several logos, most of which are familiar. Study them, and not just the negative space, what do you see?

In each of these there is more to see than meets the eye, there is more to the message.

  • Wendy’s – look at her collar. It spells MOM. Home and family, are Wendy’s priorities.
  • Baskin Robbins – pink lettering reveals the number 31 – because they have 31 flavors. (that’s what I still call them to this day)
  • LG – the round, red circle is designed to be a face with the L and the nose and the G encircling it the outline of the face. Bringing humanity to machines.
  • Tostitos – delish chips for sure. Did you notice the “i” is a small table, it has salsa on it; the dot of the “i” is a chip, and surrounding the table (i) the 2, t’s are designed to look like people. The messaging, Tostitos are for sharing.
  • WHAT DO YOU SEE?
  • Formula 1 racing – easy to see the negative space 1 speeding away
  • Hershey’s kisses – hidden in the logo is another kiss. Can you find it? It is between the K and the I… see it? Message – another kiss is hidden in there
  • Goodwill – I always saw the smiley face in the left corner, but I never realized it was meant to also be another g… 2 g’s making the goodwill point.

These types of brain teasers I have always enjoyed. I’m hoping that you are too.

But there is another message too, and I’ll share it after this next and last set of logos. Look at them, what do you see?

  • Apple – we all know this one. True story, it is designed to represent when Eve took the bite from the “apple” and received knowledge (of good and evil.)
  • MLB baseball team the Milwaukee Brewers. A baseball glove with MB
  • Toyota’s logo of interlocking ovals shapes every alphabet letter of the company’s name
  • Pinterest- we have all seen this one, right? The P is a pin.
  • Toblerone – featuring the Matterhorn Mountain of Switzerland, has a hidden bear in the mountain symbolizing it is made in the “city of bears”
  • Sun Mircosystems – sun spelled out in the microchip, facing every direction
  • Hope for African Children Initiative – HACI – not only does it appear to be the continent of Africa but the outline is actually created by contours of two people – an adult and a child

So, what do you see?

What did you see before some of the messages were revealed? Did you see the entire, intended message?

Today, I am challenged by the fact that not everything we see is clearly understood. I am challenged to search for the underlying messaging, the hidden messages, if you will.

I am confident, there is more to it than meets the eye and the discerning will see beyond the curtain and realize just who is pulling the strings and levers in this land of oohs and aahs.

What do you see?

Cheers to you.

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