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Ch 7: Defining Spatial Relationships

Part of the visual brand identity is the relationship among different elements of your brand. For example,will your brand standard permit display of just a portion of your logo, or must it always be shown in its entirety? Have you ever seen just a portion of the Nike swoosh? We can’t think of any examples. In contrast, the IBM logo was so well known in 1970 that Paul Rand was able to design the now famous “Eye-Bee-M” poster, which only showed one-third of the company’s logo… yet was completely recognizable to anyone familiar with the brand. (Scroll down after you click the link to see the poster, and the full logo.)

Safe Space (or “breathing room”)

Let’s say your company is one of several sponsors for a 10K race. As thanks for this financial support, the organizers of the race will add your company’s logo to the T-shirt that all runners will receive. On the back of the shirt is your company’s logo–in all black of course–along with the logos of all the other sponsors.

How close may those other logos be to your logo, without infringing on the intent of your design? Never thought about it? Now’s the time… fail to define the safe space of your logo, and your company or client will suffer the consequences.

Here’s another scenario: your company’s logo is sent to an outside agency that will create print ads. Does it matter where the logo is placed in these ads? Can it be nestled against the edge of a page, with no space between the logo and the outside edge? Or is it a requirement (part of your design aesthetic) that it be nestled in such a way?

When defining safe space, it’s not appropriate to denote a specific, finite measurement. One inch of safe space might work well in a print ad, but it’s probably too much for a business card. And not enough for a billboard.

In your brand standards manual, define safe space in relative terms. For example, the safe space specified for the University of Cincinnati’s logo is equal to the height of the capital letter C in the logo. This ensures that the safe space increases or decreases appropriately with smaller and larger applications of the logo. (

Additional examples of how to define safe space are available here (p. 12) and here (pp. 20-23).

Coming soon: more about establishing the minimum size for a logo, and defining the logo-to-slogan relationship.

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