My professor in college was right. If a logo doesn’t work in black and white, it doesn’t work well at all. An effective logo shouldn’t have to rely on color to be clear and effective.
The sad thing is, it took me about twenty years to 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 ancient 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 we did them in black and white.
Really, one purpose of a logo is to make your company or organization instantly recognizable to potential customers at a glance.
If I am driving down the freeway, looking for coffee, I don’t have 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 thing I encourage 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?
Just something to think about.
Oh, by the Way, Speaking of Logos…
Did you know that I design logos? I love helping small businesses, side hustlers, and Work from home moms with their logo design needs, and other design needs.