Negative Space in Language

Negative spaces have always intrigued me, I encountered them first in my PwC days with that classic vase-human face picture, that was even part of our brand imagery for quite some time. More recently reading Betty Edwards and the FedEx logo (note the forward arrow between E and x).

From a visual expression perspective it makes absolute sense to experience the gap and space. But is it true for language as well.

I have 2 illustrations here, first one from our office vending machine named Starvend, there was a negative space that made me read it as “Starve end” instead of the usual “Star Vend”. I perceived the extra “e” and the space.

My usual brand of cigarettes has a tag line “Honeydew Smooth” which when read with the negative spaces sounds exactly like “I need you smooth”. I heard the whole, with the negative space to mean a completely different phrase than what was written.

Can negative spaces be phonemic and not just visual? Can it also be extended to the next natural level of “a concept”? If that were true is this a reason why some people are more comfortable listening to incomplete ideas? Is this perception the reason why some people like poetry of TS Eliot or Sylvia Plath more than others? Can we design this negative space for better perception? Just asking


One thought on “Negative Space in Language

  1. Dhana says:

    Thanks for the perception of negative spaces. Looking at the Honey dew I am reflecting on Negative transfers. The negative transfer can be edges to trigger idea generation. Given we acquire Mother tongue and learn a language, I came across a reading on Negative transfers in Learning spanish –

    Interesting ones are “Which University I want to go” “Do you know what you are
    going to do this summer yet?”

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