Positively Negative: Part 2

idle-hands-logoEarlier last year I posted a piece on the use of negative space in design and how much I appreciated it when it’s well done.

Recently I hooked up with my good friend the writer Ron MacLean at my favorite local pub Atwood’s Tavern. We had the corner spot at the bar and were catching up on things and ordered a second round of beers to go with our burgers. I ordered an Idle Hands Triplication, which arrived in a stylish Belgian tulip-shaped glass. When I tipped it back for my first sip, I noticed their logo design etched into its side. The mark creates the tulip-shaped glass in the negative space created by the two hands, topped off with a wonderfully delicious head of foam dripping down the side of the glass. I put the glass down and sat there admiring this wonderful design, and savoring the excellent taste of a quality brew, and wondered who was the lucky chap that got this design assignment and hit it out of the park.

Turns out it was created by a designer out of England named Joe Leese, who I recently tracked down to share my appreciation of his work. This is what Joe had to say about his process and thoughts behind the design:

“The thinking behind the logo was quite simple—I wanted a nice, clean way to show ‘handmade beer,’ so a beer glass made of hands was the perfect fit! Originally the logo showed two hands forming a traditional beer tankard shape, which we then decided to swap out for a Belgian style glass to be more in keeping with their beer’s heritage. The hands in the logo are actually my own and I spent a fair amount of time trying out different shapes and taking photos in order to get the right look for the logo.”

Time well spent I say, old chap!

All of this got me to thinking about why this kind of design is so effective. I did some research and came across an academic abstract on the “Gestalt Principles and Dynamic Symmetry” written by  Thomas Detrie, Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, that provided me with some intellectual background on why we respond to this type of visual imagery. Gestalt Psychology, an early 20th century German school of psychology derived mainly from visual perception, denotes the fact that we make whole images from partial data. It’s referred to as the “Closure Principle.” In fact, according to Professor Detrie, as much as we seek it, we have a recurrent willingness to delay closure. This is true not only in literature, film and theatre, but also in art and design. Implied line, hide and seek edges, and creative use of negative space, stimulate the eye and keep the viewer engaged with the image. It rewards the viewer by making them an active participant in the work, like in a movie when you can figure out a plot connection or action without being explicitly shown or told by the film maker (see the shower scene in “Psycho” by Alfred Hitchcock). In short, we are hardwired to fill in the blanks to complete the image.

So the next time you’re at your local pub, order an Idle Hands Craft Beer. Admire its delightful hoppy flavor made even better by an excellent logo design, and contemplate how the closure principle will be resolved once you have finished your first pint.

Click here to read Positively Negative: Part 1



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