Creating your own logo design? Start with black and white.

By Nicole Heymer | Mar 13 2015

Designing your own logo? Start with black and white.Color is easily the most fun part of designing something. Wouldn’t you agree?

It’s the most Pinterest-y, delightful step. And YES, color theory is a serious thing that some of us have studied. But anyone can feel quite comfortable having an opinion about color without a formal education on the subject. It is, in many ways, about instinct.

For this reason, it can be tempting to jump to color first when planning out your logo design. It seems like a logical, broad stroke decision. What colors do I like? (Or, more importantly, what colors do my potential clients like?) Let’s create a mood board! I love turquoise! Its so me! (Been there. Been there. Been there.)

But I’m going to ask you to put a pin in that. Just for a moment and I promise it will be that much sweeter once you get to it. Please consider starting with black and white.

Reason #1: One of the biggest considerations when designing a logo is that it works at every size.

Will it look as good on one of those cute little square business cards as it will on the side of a blimp? (Why are blimps my go-to giant logo example lately? I can’t stop.) In other words, does it work when it’s very tiny and ALSO work when it’s really huge? How does one even plan for such a thing?

Starting with black and white will save you. It pretty much blocks you from creating something fussy, over-complicated or so dependent on texture that it will just look like a blob when shrunk down to business card size. It MAKES you simplify your shapes and that’s a good thing.

For proof that simple shapes are better in a logo design, go look at…every major brand. All of the big companies that make a gazillion dollars a year and pay out nauseating bonuses to their CEO’s. THEY USUALLY HAVE SIMPLE, GRAPHIC LOGOS and they’re doing GREAT. Where will you find examples of over-complicated logos with tiny details that don’t scale down nicely? Usually at small, local companies run by nice people who don’t receive huge, nauseating bonuses.

So who should you emulate? Dress your logo for the job you want, sister. (Or brother.) Keep that logo clean and straight-forward. Start with black and white. It will help.

Reason #2: Taking the process one step at a time will make things infinitely easier.

Think of design as a lab experiment. If you work with all different variables at once, you’re never going to actually figure anything out. But when you start with one variable and iterate on that, it’s easy to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Once you’ve designed the black and white version of your logo, then trying out different color schemes is REALLY fun. It’s like spinning a wheel. Whew! Now let’s try this other combination! We don’t have to think about fonts. That’s done. We don’t have to think about the general concept AND the target market AND the color scheme all at once. Solve one problem at a time and then move on. Start with black and white.

Reason #3: It’s just practical.

There might be times when you need to actually use the black and white version of your logo. You may need it for invoices, quotes, or any occasion when a black and white laser printer gets involved. The greyed-out, printed version of your color logo will look anemic and gross and distinctly un-crisp. The black and white version will look punchy and purposeful.

Or perhaps you may throw the black version of your logo onto an envelope design. These things happen. The point is that a professionally designed logo package will usually include a black and white version of your logo. If you’re making your own logo, create one for yourself as part of the design process. It will come in handy.

This is one of those times when an “extra” step actually makes the process faster and more efficient.

And when the time comes for color, it’s a situation that’s closer to coloring in a coloring book than starting a drawing on a blank sheet of paper. Doesn’t that sound easier?

And then, when you’re ready for some out-of-the-box color scheme inspiration, read this.

If this whole thing is making you tired and you’d rather just hire someone, read this.

Good luck! If you’re working on a logo design for your business, let me know in the comments how it’s going.

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