Black-and-white and monochrome logos are proof that using color is about quality not quantity. It’s not about how many hues you use, but how you use them.
Monochrome logos offer a certain classiness and dignity, sometimes even a modern or minimalist feel, as well. In fact, black-and-white logos offer plenty of strategic advantages:
- More cost effective for printing
- Easier to scale to fit marketing materials of any size
- Easier to understand, even at a glance
- Stronger associations for brand recognition
Take the iconic Disney logo, instantly recognizable by its distinct and playful handwriting. The company liberally uses the same logo design with all colors of the rainbow, depending on the needs of what its used for. However, the black version is the most iconic and common, better at representing the brand than any other offshoots.
The Disney logo works because it’s a good design. Unless they’re crafted carefully, black-and-white logos can come across as bland and boring.
So, how do you know what works and what doesn’t?
Below, we showcase 33 monochrome logos, divided into five categories: classy, vintage, artistic, typographic and modern. Each section explains which kinds of brand will benefit most from this type of logo, so you can find the style that best matches your business.
Classy monochrome logos
Sleek and simple, these classy monochrome logos take a traditional approach. These logos tend to be by the book, but for some companies, that’s the perfect fit.
Because the color scheme of black-and-white logos is limited, it’s better to stick to simple shapes and clear imagery. That’s not to say designs can’t be elaborate. The Black Fox Events and unicorn-themed logos are both highly detailed. In fact, if they were multicolored, these two might run the risk of appearing too busy, but these designs work well because they’re a single color.
Classy monochrome logos are most effective with images that are easily identifiable, like common animals, a plant leaf, basic shapes, etc. More complex images require more intricate details, but for this style, stick to subjects that can be depicted simply.
Classy monochrome logos work best for brands that…
- Don’t want to take any chances or risks.
- Work in more formal or professional industries.
- Want to appear sophisticated and capable.
- Are represented by easily identifiable mascots.
Vintage monochrome logos
Because of their grainy illustrations and elaborate flourishes, vintage monochrome logos are actually more detailed than modern ones.
The vintage style is easily recognizable by its telltale characteristics:
- Grainy texture reminiscent of old printing machines
- Ornate frames, often a circle, creating an emblem
- Dots on each side of the brand name
- Garnishes around the words
- “Established” year
Looking at the logos from Fat Rabbit, Strong Bold Coffee and Copper Kettle Bakery, you can see how the grainy and hand-drawn style gives them an authentic “vintage” feel. Copper Kettle Bakery also exhibits the ornate decorations typical of the style, such as the flowery garnishes and the second, smaller line in the frame.
One of the greatest advantages of this style is you can apply it in various degrees and combine it with other styles. For example, Pint of Tea takes the graininess and structure of vintage logos and reinvents them by incorporating the brand name into the frame. Strong Bold Coffee combines a vintage design with a modern, sans-serif font to create something with a foot in both styles.
Given the printing limitations of the time, the vintage logo style originated as almost entirely monochrome. Nowadays, using the vintage logo style with multiple colors makes it seem more contemporary, and something of that old-fashioned atmosphere is lost. That’s why, if you’re considering a vintage logo to make your company seem more traditional, also consider making it a single color to drive that point further.
Vintage monochrome logos work best for brands that…
- Want to capitalize on the vintage trend to appear hip
- Often stamp their logos on non-digital materials (physical products, paper bags, etc.)
- Use images that look better in textured visuals
Artistic monochrome logos
Black-and-white logos demonstrate one principle that photographers have known for over a century: fewer colors can be more artistic. Using only a single color closes a lot of design doors, sure, but at the same time it opens many others, particularly more creative usage.
Monochrome logos can take advantage of these artistic opportunities. The Global Wildlife Conservation logo is a perfect example: instead of using multiple colors to differentiate the animals, it uses outlines in the natural shape of the elephant to create an original concept that leaves a lasting impression on viewers. Beggar Kings does something similar, using only shading to create a complete picture.
Artistic styles work well for dual meanings and double entendre, like Black Castle’s keyhole/rook combination or Owl’s Head Brewery’s owl/hops. They also suit a new take on an old concept, like how the Buttermilk logo reinterprets a vintage logo style in a way that’s never been seen before.
Artistic monochrome logos work best for brands that…
- Want an image with dual meaning
- Want to stand out from their competition
- Prefer more psychological logos that make people think
- Associate themselves with art and creativity
Typographic monochrome logos
Monograms make up a sizeable portion of all logos, but most brands want something more visual than just two or three letters. It’s what you do with those letters—the font, shapes, placement and artistry—that determines how effective of a logo they make.
Typographic logos do something original and memorable with the letters to make them appeal to everyday people. One way is by reshaping them to form a particular image—like the barbell in Neal Hudson’s logo. Another way is by adding styled details to make the logo more decorative and invigorating. The Bashford Design logo does this well. You can also combine the letters in creative ways, like Antipodes Merino and DTR Partners have done.
When all else fails, you can always invent a new font to encapsulate the personality of your brand. We’ve never seen a K like the one in Kyber Capital before, but we can still recognize it as a K.
Typographic monochrome logos work best for brands that…
- Emphasise their brand name, prioritizing recognition
- Are named after people
- Are too formal for mascots or image logos
Modern monochrome logos
The natural minimalism of monochrome logos works well with modern styles. Today’s aesthetic trends encourage a less-is-more approach, in which more than a single color seems decadent.
The modern style is difficult to pinpoint, but we can identify it by some common characteristics
- Abstract. Shapes like the Third Eye logo, which don’t depict anything in particular, are a staple of modern designs.
- Angular or geometric. Grid designs like Northampton’s logo seem futuristic with their many straight lines, which automatically denote cutting-edge.
- Creativity. Artistic styles and modern styles have a lot of overlap; the monochrome logo for Nyrdy could fit either category, but the angular shapes and minimalism make it lean slightly more towards modern.
- Breaking conventions. If there wasn’t a quarter missing from the G in Jamie Groom’s logo, it would fit in well with the other typographic logos—but it’s that missing part that gives it a modern and edgy appeal.
- Humor. In the vein of breaking conventions, logos can also uproot expectations to be funny. Accident Injury Resource plays on the well-known legal emblem to not only communicate their field, but to also make a joke.
Modern styles represent more youthful, edgy and unconventional brand personalities, but this could work against some companies that market themselves as more traditional. How effective they are depends on how you want to be perceived.
Modern monochrome logos work best for brands that…
- Target younger markets
- Benefit from appearing futuristic or cutting edge
- Rely on humor or uniqueness in their branding
- Want a slight twist on the more conventional classy style
Black (and white) is back, baby!
When it comes to colors in logos, a little goes a long way. Unless rainbows are important to your branding or your target customers are children, a monochrome or black-and-white logo can achieve just as much as a multicolored one, but with the added benefits of being cheaper to print and easier to reproduce. Get inspired by the examples above and start dreaming up how you want your logo to look.