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Black & White Logo

Updated: Mar 22


A pencil with black lead touching a pencil with white lead against a black and white background.
The contrast of black and white.

Image from Shutterstock


Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links which are free to you and may provide Viafique LLC with a small commission. Read the full disclaimer for more information.


Did you know that a black and white logo is much more than an aesthetic decision? It has practical purposes as well. Whether you have just gotten started or you already have a full color logo, the following explains why a black and white logo is essential for any business.


Contrast: Visual Appeal


A pure black (000000) and pure white (FFFFFF) have the highest contrast levels. High contrast directs a person’s eye. If you start with a black and white logo, you can then choose shades of color which will have a similar impact simply by staying closer to this value level. You may find that you are naturally drawn to shades of colors which are mid-range in level. By starting with the black and white logo, you can consciously choose shades of your desired color based on visual impact over preference.


Example 1

An illustration showing two colors picked due to preference next to the contrast levels of those two colors when shown in gray scale.

Example 2

An illustration showing contrast as a starting point with black and white being the two values. Next to that is an example of color choices being made with contrast being the starting point rather than preference.

Starting with a black and white logo will ensure that your color palette decisions will provide the largest range of application. This value range gives you more options when choosing background colors for your advertising and marketing needs.


Accessibility


Web accessibility is increasingly becoming a concern, standard, and mandatory expectation. Part of accessibility is the contrast of foreground elements against their background. In fact, there is a tool provided by WebAIM which will allow for you to test the contrast of your brand’s colors to ensure your company is meeting accessibility standards. You can assess your color combinations via their website by following this link: https://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/. Simply enter the hex color code number of the colors to compare, and they will let you know whether they pass or fail based on specific WCAG requirements.


A benefit of starting your design process with a black and white logo is you will be starting your design process with the highest level of contrast via WCAG requirements. When you start with a black (#000000) and white (#FFFFFF) logo, your contrast level is 21:1. If you then choose the contrast level of your color palette against this, you are likely going to have an easier time finding color shades which will then meet WCAG Level AAA requirements of 7:1. Since WCAG Level AAA is the highest standard of web accessibility, this should bring peace of mind to your company’s branding. Given the ever-increasing speed of new requirements, this design approach will likely save time and money. If you design in this manner, rebranding due to new accessibility requirements will unlikely become a mandatory obligation in the initial stages of your business development.


Logo Trademarks


There is another practical application to having a black and white logo which many small business owners may not consider when starting out. That is trademarking your logo, logotype, or logomark. As understood by Viafique LLC, any version of your brand’s logo may be submitted for a trademark review. However, if you submit a black and white logo version, you will receive greater versatility if your application is approved. Being as no one at Viafique LLC is an attorney, we cannot provide legal advice. Please keep in mind that this is purely a suggestion in terms of things to consider when creating your logo. In addition to consulting an attorney, you can also find a tremendous amount of guidance and help regarding trademarks on the USPTO website. To access those resources, please visit their site at the following link: https://www.uspto.gov/.


Ease of Rebranding


Being as color is secondary to contrast in terms of how people see visual hierarchy, branding based on color over contrast could potentially create a logo which does not maximize its impact. For example, let us say you have found that customers respond positively to marketing materials which primarily show your secondary color, purple. Yet, your primary color is green. Green has also become outdated, so you would like to get rid of that color all together. You would now like to change the primary color to purple and make the secondary color to an aqua blue. Unfortunately, you did not consider contrast when creating your logo. If keeping within the same contrast range, this would be the result:


Example 1

Two color options next to corresponding square showing their value level contrast. The illustration shows that the difference in color choices does not have a significant effect on the contrast levels.

Even if you preferred the blue over the green combination, you would still be unable to use this option to fulfill web accessibility requirements. Interestingly, it is possible you may not be getting a clear picture as to what your customer is responding to. For example, would the customer have responded the same way if you stayed closer in contrast to the black and white option?


Example 2

An illustration show two color choices made with contrast as being the first consideration. The illustration shows that the color choices would both have a desirable contrast while also illustrating that the actual color may not be what is causing a positive or negative response.

As you can see, by staying closer to the black and white contrast level, you can experiment with new color combinations while not risking non-compliance. In addition, by doing this, you remove one element from the equation when making your brand’s color palette decisions. You allow your eyes to focus on color due to not having to base decisions upon contrast. In addition, your logo will more easily translate to black and white in the mind’s eye of your customer.


Summary


Regardless of whether you have a full color logo, a black and white logo is essential. Ideally, the design process will start with this version; but, even if it does not, it is still helpful for versatility in marketing, trademark protection, and future rebranding efforts. With web accessibility mandates and standards, it is necessary to ensure the contrast levels of your designs meet these regulations. Starting your process with contrast in mind will mean you will not have to revisit color palette choices when designing for the web. It also means it is unlikely you will be required to rebrand soon. Lastly, starting with a wide range of values allows for you to make smarter color decisions when choosing your color palette. This approach will ensure that you are making choices based on impact over preference. For more information on how Viafique can help with your graphic design needs, please send a message via the contact page.


 

Author

Rebecca A. Crecelius, MFA

CEO | Founder | Managing Member | Designer



Rebecca A. Crecelius, MFA is an artist, designer, and business owner. Her creative background is in fine art, and she has a Specialization in Graphic Design from CalArts. In addition, she has post-secondary education in business and certificates in HTML and CSS coding languages. After discovering a passion for logo design and brand development, she founded Viafique LLC. She looks forward to sharing her knowledge with aspiring business owners and enthusiastic entrepreneurs.



 

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