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Mar 17, 2009


Tom Armitage

One obvious reason to keep a monochrome logo: engraving.

I've had to prepare artwork for engraving onto glass/steel (ie: trophies), and having a properly hinted single-colour logo is an absolute must. Also: you never know when somebody (eg, someone whose competition you are sponsoring) will suddenly say "can we put your logo on the trophy"?

It's boring and niche, but it's the most obvious place where one-colour logos are, to my mind, essential.


The Apple logo was in a rainbow version for a long while, and at the time it was said to be the most expensive ever.
All the colours were used almost everywhere:
But those were the '80s, you know, wealth had to be shown.

Anyway, it is true that nothing is b&w anymore these days, but the photocopy can be a killer for a colour logo.
And bills, letters, various kind of corporate documents are still photocopied in b&w.

So let's have coloured logos, but they shall not lose their soul when turned in black.

Mike Reed

Let's not. To the practical reasons already suggested, I'd add the importance of reversing out. One tends to think of b&w meaning a black logo on white, but white on black - or other colour - is probably more often required. And a logo that'll hold its own as black on white will probably also hold up when reversed out.

(I'm willing to bet the Tate logo has appeared white out of all manner of colours along the way.)

I'd also add an aesthetic reason: b&w logos, or the best logos in black and white form, just look so beautiful. (See your images.)

I think it's the purity. This is what makes b&w such a good test of an identity. Losing the colour forces the logo to lean more heavily on form, pattern, composition. If they're not up to snuff, it falls over. They should be up to snuff, or it's not a good enough mark.

Google is clearly a rubbish logo anyway. It looks horrible in colour, let alone b&w. Is it the biggest crap logo in the world now, I wonder?

David Airey

For me, the most important factor is your first point, Ben — it's good discipline.

A great idea shouldn't rely on colour, so for a designer to focus on shape and form is simply good practice.

(In my humble opinion.)


Some people are colour blind, remember, so we always need to keep in mind the alternative view of any logo. Black and white should ALWAYS work - there will always at some point, be a requirement for it.

A client logo I just designed recently, who are entirely based online, has been requested for a charity sponsorship brochure - they only have the budget to print in black and white, so that is how the logo will be. Luckily, it works well because I always do one. It will be interesting to see how the other sponsors fare, actually. I'd hate to see b/w discontinued - it can make or break what you thought was a sturdy logo design...it's a good test :)


It's the acid test. If a logo can work in black and white you're halfway to a solid mark.

I've worked with a number of clients where a B/W version of a logo hasn't even entered their mind, and thus the pro's have had to be laid out to them.

Andrew Sabatier

Black and white is not the issue, form is.

Black and white provides the means to express the essential form of a brandmark. It provides the highest contrast between figure and ground and is the most simple, clear and demanding version.

Even if the brandmark doesn't get used in black and white in application it is the strongest position from which to work to ensure the brandmark is properly resolved.

Clients may never require the black and white version directly but they should always ask for it.



I have a few points FOR b+w aswell. Take Amazon as one of the examples, all of their packaging comes in plain cardboard boxes with a plain black version of their logo. Google have moved into the mobile world with the G1, they must want their 'lovely' branding all over it. My point is that for online companies to make serious money they have to be selling physical products which will need some form of offline branding.

To my mind it would be short-sighted of a digital company not to consider a b+w or single colour logo, what happens if a magazine or newspaper wanted to feature that company and use their logo.

For me I agree that logos should always work in black and white, simply because it is good practice, and it is still practical.

Ricky Irvine

I concur with reasons listed thus far.

Also, maybe we're instead at a point where we should be asking, Do we have to use color? B&w is no longer a technical issue with the internet, but an issue of meaning and aesthetic.


I think having a single color version of a logo still has merit (if not for trophies, but for ink stamps). The new variable these days for me at least is: how can this brand come across in a 16x16 favicon?

john cooepr

"I've never seen a single colour version of the Google logo"
so, doesn't mean it's a good logo, have you seen the Google logo on a dark background - it does happen and it's hideous,
why don't you see it as a single colour, because it would just look like type not a logo type


I think there is also a cultural issue to consider. "black and white" in our culture means truthful, serious, has integrity etc. Is it a coincidence that newspaper circulations are falling at the same time they have moved to colour illustrations - in part is this because newspapers have lost their serious black and white identity?


It's kinda like when DVDs replaced VHS and for a while people bought those god awful hermaphrodite VHS/DVD players that could deal with both.

I think we are in that very period with logos.


I say it's like the seat belt: You'll never regret having it on, but you might regret it if you don't; It won't hurt to have a b+w logo, but it might if you need it and don't have it.

As well as everything that's been posted above…

Julian Saunders

Simply put, if you are working on producing high quality identities it is essential to produce a logo that works in B&W as one of your base requirements. You should never limit the application of your ident at concept stage as if/when the logo becomes successful there will need to be many versions to cater for an incredibly diverse range of applications, many of which are difficult to foresee or plan for. As examples of diversity, think of applying your logo to the turf at Twickenham, or on the sponsors board behind a football player interview, or on the hull of a Volvo Round The World yacht etc etc... If you are planning on success, plan on having a B&W logo as an essential.


This is an easy question to answer in my book... you can never retire black and white logos!

The real truth is that it's essential for business logos to be versatile enough to be used in one color (not necessarily black mind you) if it were ever needed.

This isn't a debate at all... it is simply designers trying to find an excuse or justification for using transparencies, gradients. multiple color combinations and a myriad of other techniques that they are attempting to pass off as good logo design.

Well, I for one am I'm not buying it!

Christa Watson

I wanted a color logo but after everything, fell in love with the monochrome design of B&W... I have all of my stuff in 2 colors, but always fall back to the black design. I think it is essential in logo designs, not only for print costs and project purposes, but also for aesthetic reasons as well.


I am inclined to feel that as long as the logo is good/well-designed, it's going to look fine or not cause problems in monochrome anyway. I guess that means prioritising simplicity and strength including making the main characteristic(s) of the logo comprised of recognisable shapes that relate in a way that can be demonstrated as making sense. Sorry that's a bit waffley.

So the question is not so much 'will it look good in b&w' but rather 'is it simple and strong enough for a variety of uses and display modes?'


I agree that black and white logos should not be retired, but it's hard not to feel the future bearing down. Hang around a few logo showcase sites long enough and you'll see how little respect even some designers have for the idea of creating in black and white.


“Too much colour distracts the audience”
Jacques Tati


I think the reason most never see the single color logo of an online company is because that is typically reserved for internal use. This is a must and should never be retired. B+W will always be needed for letterheads, and the like for financial and administrative uses. You'd have to be daft to want to run four-color logos on all your in-house documents and memos that would be a ridiculous waste of money.

Max Gadney

I think the key point is that it is good discipline to have a clear logo - and a clear one will work in black and white.

To that I would add, it should mean something and be distinctive - too. God knows there enough meaningless marques all wearing the same clothes.


if we're going to retire the B&W logo, let's wait until 2012. the most garish and colour-full (non-mono) logo will be in full-force then, so we could just make 2012 the year of the colour logo. out with the dull and the classic, in with the neo-baroque colour barage. man.


God I saw a single color treatment of the Google identity this am and it was disgusting. The kerning looked all out of kilter and the LAYOUT ! Man, you should have seen the layout. It made me want to fucking die. It wasn't even THERE. I mean, it was REVERSED OUT. It was a logo created out of the image that was backing the ground. No doubt done by the chairman's niece or something - just out of art school.

Nathan McKinney

Yes we live in an internet sort of world, but many businesses still need to print things in order to run. With the current economy, there really is no excuse to run a small business's print bill up just because you are too lazy to design a one color version of a logo that looks professional.

Certain applications of logos (such as embroidery, or cheap silk-screening) require not only that you have a one color version of a logo, but also a flat one-color logo (no gray scale or gradient).

Besides, one color logos will stand out in an garish RGB world. Isn't one of the principles of design not to blend in?

I know the intent of this article was to look progressive and raise a good discussion, but I feel it misses some very important principles and counterpoints. Most good designers know how important a one color logo can be. If they are only working in the web arena, then I can see how they've missed the boat. New designers reading this article might take away the wrong learnings.


No no no. Don't get rid of designing 'black' logos. If a logo doesn't work work in black, it probably doesn't work in colour??? A good logo should work in black.

graham peake


All the clichés do have some truth behind them, and this is no exception.

I can see if a logo works at different scales and then examine colour routes. Sad to say a lot of this is being ignored these days on many BA courses judging by some of the placement experiences we've had.

It's about (the) discipline...

Julian Baker

And not just black and white - will it reproduce well small on bad paper stock. A successful company sooner or later will need to be in printed directory

Neil Martin

I'd disagree that you absolutely *must* have a black and white logo because technology has moved on to a point where in most cases, it's no longer needed. I think you only have to look at the likes of BT's logo or Swisscom's (http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/vectors_and_gradients_run_ramp.php)

There are some ideas that require colour and/or tones of colour to work and I think that because has progressed to a point where we're able to use colour much less sparingly, these ideas certainly should not be cast away.

Perhaps I'm being a bit biased, since my own logo has a gradient on it. However, I have business cards with the logo on, along with other printed media and it looks absolutely fine and dare I say it - better than flat colour. I do have a flat black and white version, but I've never had the need to use it and don't particularly plan to.


Speaking as a designer, who has been working in the industry for over 10 yrs. now, I've never had to even consider a logo design appearing as B/W in a "FINAL" commercial application. When developing a logo, or logotype it does help to consider it initially in B/W, but when you move to finalize its form, shape, and application, it traditionally is interpreted into a (1,2,3)color application, that reflects the company, or the brands image. This is a very basic description of the process, mentioned here, but this has been the practice for some time now, since colors other than "black", have been available on the printing press. Black and white logos are great for submitting to design annuals, and they look good on a page filled with hundreds of company marks (Los Logos series), but I could never see recommending a B/w logo to most clients.

Okay, well all this aside, my personal logo is done in B/w. So there you go!


There are some really great comments on this post, thanks for that.

I know that the answer is that we should still have a black and white version of the logo. But who has ever used one? Or rather, when was the last time you used one?

Some of the comments have highlighted that.


Interesting article. Thanks!

One thing that kept creeping into my mind while reading is the fact that many online companies ship stuff. If you want your brand on corrugated you'll likely want a one color or black and white version.

Matt Fouty

It's not a black & white answer (pun intended).

Like you have said, there are still and will always be cases where a black and white version of a logo is a must.

The larger issue, like others have mentioned, is that, generally, good form in a logo does not depend on color. Color is more of a punctuation to the message that is already being delivered by the form.


It all depends on how a logo will be used, honestly. A lot of stuff is online these days, but that doesn't mean that a logo has to be full color. I'm sure there will be cases where the communication might actually be stronger with a simple black and white mark. Just because the majority of things are going toward full color doesn't make b&w obsolete. And knowing that, A logo may garner more attention if it is b&w while the other 95% are full color. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see a backward trend toward b&w and monochrome after the market saturates itself in a wash of full color.

Personally, whenever I work on a logo, I always start with black and white and then convert to color for all of the aforementioned reasons: clarity, communication and quality, etc. Skipping straight to color is like skipping all those attributes.


Two good reasons for a b/w logo version:

1) Even if in 95% of all situations the b/w version is not needed, what about the remaining 5% ? What if it is just 0,1% of cases where you need to have a b/w version but in that very situation YOU NEED IT ?

Well, then you need it.That's why a b/w version should always exist.Because you never know when that day comes.

2) Only with a working b/w version you can be sure your logo is so good people could scrape it in sand or carve it in a tree and it'd still be recognizable.

Kandace Tatum Potter

A black and white logo is a neccessity for some organizations, like the one i work for, a non-profit arts organization. Although we are all seeing the majority of advertising/outreach/communication online, direct mailing is still a key component for small non-profit organizations. The last fiscal year with the Lexington Art League we had to cut printing costs by 30%, the only logical way to do this was achieved through a 2 color printing process which included a black/white logo. Keep with tradition and start with a one-color logo option to begin with, so you can always fall-back when you need to.

Don Kelly

Any logo I design ALWAYS starts in black and white. Once the form and look are locked down then any colors or effects may be added. Plus working in the screen printing business there are multiple times I've had to convert a full color logo to a basic 1 color.. grayscale only works in some instances. I can't tell yuo how many sponsor shirts I've done fro races and what not where I get full color logos that need to be 1 color for the printing. So NO it's not time to retire black and white logos.


I agree with the "discipline" argument. Although just like any rule, it's begging to be broken, if the designer can pull it off.

I disagree with Amazon and Skype being pure online businesses.

Check out monochrome-print Amazon boxes here:

And a phone with single-color print of the Skype logo:

Black and white is here to stay.


@Neil Martin: Here is what the new Swisscom logo looks like when printed in one color (and on a small format):


And BT beveled logo is not that much better:


Lucky they have a logotype they can use next to the logo, don't you think?


Screen printing on plastics (cheaply) still needs a black/white/1-colour version. That includes many promotional items like pens, rubbers, bags, etc.

I work for the NHS and last used a black & white logo in a form design last week. Had a polyprop folder using a 1-colour logo this week.

It's fine if you work in a cool, tech-savvy part of the industry and call the real world "offline". It's obvious logos/branding is moving towards motion graphics but none of that means plain photocopy-able logos are obsolete.

If online brands want to develop to be truly global, then at some point, that may mean printing something in the Developing World where technology isn't as up-to-date. Even in the UK the majority of the population don't know what Twitter is (lucky them!)

Just tell your clients you don't want to limit what they can do with their logo and a b&w version is standard.

Wayne Pashley

I currently work as a designer/ artworker for a packaging company which uses flexographic presses, its not the amount of colour that causes problems its tints and shades which are just impossible to print without using an ugly low-res screen.

My job would be a hell of a lot easier if I didn't have to re-draw 85% of all the $50 logos we have to print.


I say sure retire the b/w logo if we want our design skills to diminish. One of the beauties of designing in b/w is that it forces us to view our work from different perspectives in order to create something that is visually creative. Being forced to think in b/w while at times seems like you are limiting your creativity in many ways it has the opposite effect, because of your limitations.


I have an example that cannot be argued with. Your customers (the reason you HAVE a business) cannot be guaranteed to have a colour printer. The end.

Actually, I do have a colour printer but the MYK ink cartridge just ran out. But I'm late to a meeting and I need to run off a few copies for the big presentation where I'm pitching to the boss for us to change suppliers of our biggest contract. And that supplier is you. But your logo comes out all weird and smudgy. It's totally unreadable. That's just one example. I could go on.

Just remind your clients the reason they are still in business. Their customers.

Robert Thomas Neisworth

As for a logo being BW or color?
Some other valid reasons for the single color (black) are:
1) FAXING- Necessary for rapid faxing of info. The company does have its logo on the fax sheet doesn't it? 2) NEWSPAPER- and Bulletin advertising. Most ads in the daily paper are bw. Color is usually saved for Sundays. 3) TELEVISION- Yes, TV logos are mostly in color. However, they are requested by the station in black and white. The TV studio then generates the color from the submitted bw art and Pantone® match chips. There are more reasons, but my mind is fog at 4:42 am. Nite'all. Robert Neisworth


Here to stay. No argument.


I agree with not to remove B+W logos, it's good practice and discipline, and the logo should rely in shape rather than color. But a question pops in my mind: Is the Google "logo" a good logo? is it a logo at all? Sure is highly recognizable, but does it make it a good design work?

Joseph Coates

Since when was black not a color? and white for that matter?

Fundamentally, an identity design needs to work in any unpredictable situation. Fax (yes, still used) probably still being the worst along with reproductions of reproductions on a photo copier.

Sure, 95% of the time, full color and, maybe mostly on screen but, even Google or Apple or BP have napkins in the cafeteria, parking signs (one color), and dozens of other uses for the identity that no designer, not even the best, could predict or know.

Durability remains the key. Color or not.


Chinese / Japanese calligraphy...(pre computer of course).
If our work reflects this kind of dynamism and graphic interest then we have achieved something.

Andy Coff

It's wierd but in the images above the black and white logos look so much more BEAUTIFUL than the colour ones. The marks are so much stronger and elegant. Lets get rid of COLOUR LOGOS!

Andy Coff

Not designing a B+W logo is asking for trouble.

For instance when I had to lay-out a brochure in German, Russian and Spanish. I chose to do the Spanish one first but little did I realise that German words ARE THE LENGTH OF A WHOLE ENGLISH SENTENCE!! So basically I had to re-lay out the whole brochure to fit in the huge amount of German text. Absolute nightmare. Same as when you have seven posters to design you base your design on the one with the most text and then the rest will fit in beautifully. Unfortunately with Logos you have no idea how they will be used in the future so you have to cover every eventuality.

Designing the logo in B+W will do no harm. It will leave you with a striking logo mark.

No-one on earth can predict what will happen in the future and there may be a new online interface or device which needs to display logos in B+W or one colour to fit in.

Or the company may branch out in the future and start producing things off-line.

Absolutely without question in my mind one needs to design a B+W logo.


Often times, in sponsorship cases especially, the printing budget is one or two colors. Not to mention the common need for a knockout.

One of my chief concerns in id design is understanding that the company you are designing for is not always the sole user of the logo. Take for example an instance where Monster.com sponsors a local career fair, or ebay partners with ups on a box design, or if google sponsors a community involvement center in an impoverished area.

In each of those cases, the end user of the logo does not have the same usage wants/needs/requirements that your client may insist upon. It is our job to ensure that our clients know that by ensuring compatibility across multiple contingencies (ie stacked, inline, black only and white only), they will be covered, they will be visible and their brand will remain unharmed.


Discipline is the main thing i agree. If the logo communicates well in black n white, then it works. Colour is secondary. Its like skin on the skeleton, or maybe more like clothes on the body. And a designer should be able to think of a logo without thinking of colour. Colour should not be the prime communicator ideally. Also, when a designer is creating a logo, black and white is the best option because you can really refine the forms and judge space and counter-space best in black n white. Thats why type designers only work in b&w, somehow its the acid test of the form, and the same probably applies to logos.
And there may be a lot of single colour options if you are a hotel chain, a restaurant etc. like engraving, on napkins, on metal sheet, who knows.

Greg McBride

For the most part, I agree with this. However, there will ALWAYS come a time when a logo will need to be in black and white. So, designers must plan for that. Even if it never seems like a b/w version will be needed, the day will come. And, as other commenters have remarked, if it works in black and white, you're well on your way to a solid identity.

Rich Loeffler

If nothing else it is always best to begin a logo design in black and white. It helps keep things simple while exploring concepts and typography.I suppose there are instances with internet based services where a company can get by for the most part without a one color logo.

However when the company starts to market offline say for event sponsorships a black and white or one color logo is often needed for charitable events, since they often have limited budgets and all sponsors are printed in one color.


Foil stamping. Can't have a grayscale when you want to foil stamp.

Dave Allen

If you are trying to copyright a logo I believe most of the relevant bodies require a b/w version


Yes, I think you definetely need a black or single colour version of your multi coloured logo.

When creating a logo I think it's a good discipline to get proportions right without colour being a major influence so that when scaling a logo up or down and/or viewing it from different distances and angles it is as clear as possible. Then colours can be used in addition and sometimes being the core 'colour' of the company and it's values etc, but not being essential.

For instance, within sponsorship. A page full of colour logos can look a mess, however good each logo is independently so for this reason It's common to have a single colour version of a company's logo that can be reversed out when used in this way. Usually found lined up amongst other sponsor logos within the footer area of printed documents and in advertising both print and digital.

Often these are still printed or displayed in full colour but in order to give a contrast between the main page and the sponsor area and to give uniformity and fair playing field between all the different sponsors, the logos are presented without any colour variations between each other.

Therefore, in this case the only main element left (apart from the name and language used) to attract attention visually, are the general proportions and shapes and the allocation of space within the logo. bringing it back to my first point mentioned.

Fargo Logo Design

Yes we live in an internet sort of world, but many businesses still need to print things in order to run. With the current economy, there really is no excuse to run a small business's print bill up just because you are too lazy to design a one color version of a logo that looks professional.

Certain applications of logos (such as embroidery, or cheap silk-screening) require not only that you have a one color version of a logo, but also a flat one-color logo (no gray scale or gradient).


B/W logos have been tested through time now that they are very successful. I guess in 50 years we'll see if a logo that cannot be converted completely into B/W can stand the test.

I personally don't they [only] color logos will ever be as strong as one with a B/W version.


I just finished designing my new design firm's logo, and did several variations of it, including a black and white one.

If almost everyone else designs only color logos, then black and white ones will stand out more. As has been pointed out here in previous posts, black and white logos are more versatile and therefore can be used in a wider array of scenarios.

Greg Nye

Someone posted this quote above: “Too much colour distracts the audience” Jacques Tati
That is so genius. And no wonder, because Jacques Tati was a genius.

As a designer of hundreds and hundreds of FB ad campaigns for SMB's, I often cringe when trying to place a color logo over a beautiful simple image for their ad. If the logo is in color, what if those colors just don't suit the mood of the ad? Recently I was asked to use a black and lime green logo over a patriotic red white and blue themed ad. It doesn't work. Lime green and red don't work. I experience this issue over and over again. The solution? A one color version of the logo.

I also run into another very common problem: logos that use two extremes of color, say dark blue and orange. Well, that logo isn't going to work over a dark or light image because one of the colors will be hard to see. So, even in a digital design world, I believe every logo should work in 1 color.

I have a theory: design should be as simple as possible. (probably many designers theory). Simplicity is understood by the viewer. The more complicated you get, the greater chance you have at losing your viewer. Every element you add to something increases the complexity of the image - makes it less simple. The brain has to process all that info. Now, maybe it's literally nanoseconds in difference, but I believe it matters.

One color logos are necessary to ensure that the logo will work anywhere anytime.

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