If a Logo Doesn’t Work in Black and White, It Doesn’t Work

My professor in college was right.

The sad thing is, it took me about twenty years or so to really grasp how right he was. Funny how that works. This is partly why I’m not upset that my kids are all working for a bit before going to college. You need some reality under your belt to get your education to make more sense.

One of my professors at Northern Michigan University used to say,

“If a logo doesn’t work in black and white, it just doesn’t work.”

I thought this was very old fashioned of him.

Designing first in black and white? How very quaint. You’re adorable, professor. Here in the 1980s, we have color options now!

Remember, this was the decade where I used to shop at Limited Express and buy neon cardigans. God help me.

What Makes a Monochrome Logo Work?

think about the Logos you remember the best? Even if they have some color in them, you instantly would recognize them for their shape even if they were done in black and white.

Really, one of the purposes of a logo is to make your company or organization instantly recognizable¬†to potential customers. If I am driving down the freeway, looking for coffee, I don’t have to be able to read the sign to know there’s a Starbucks. I can see the logo in an instant, even from a distance, driving 70 miles an hour down the road. ¬†If I am on vacation, and have a Shell brand gas gift card, in an instant, I can see their logo as I drive past. It’s in orange and yellow, but even if it were monochrome it would work.

McDonald’s garish colors are part of their overall visual identity but the “golden arches” would still be recognizable if they were in black and white.

A logo that works in monochrome will be recognizable no matter what it’s printed on, no matter how it’s printed. Even if it was just stamped on with a rubber stamp, you’d recognize it.

Keep it Simple, Sweetie

One of the things I find myself encouraging clients to do is to keep their logos simple. Everyone wants some super complex and intricate design. Such a design may look great filling my large screen of my computer, but will it still look good as a profile picture on Facebook or as a favicon in a web browser address bar? Will it look great embossed on a business card or printed on an address label? Do you really need all that detail?

Will it look great embossed on a business card or printed on an address label? Do you really need all that detail?

Do you really need all that detail?

Just something to think about.

 

 

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