It's often agreed that logos should always work in black and white... am I right in thinking that doesn't mean greyscale, and literally just means black and white i.e. positive and negative space?

It would certainly make a logo more versatile, but then obviously doesn't give the designer as much room to be creative. I also see a lot of logos these days that wouldn't work in just black and white... such as those with gradients and those making use of blend modes:

enter image description here

Of course logos can have an alternate single colour version that can be used when necessary... but that just seems a little inconsistent to me.

  • I would say it entirely depends on the potential possibility of needing a black'n'white logo variation (obviously). If it's for a one-time short-lived gig where nobody will ever need to make gravures, embossed moleskin pads, b/w fax templates or textured business cards, there shouldn't be a need for that. Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 19:30
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    It depends on your definition of "work" -- what do you mean exacly. At the very least it should fail gracefully in B&W -- i.e. still be identifiable/legible when run through the worst photocopier imaginable. All the examples in your question meet that criterion. Whether the subtleties of any meaning behind the design still come through in B&W is another matter. As an example even if you google "black red logo" you'll see very few that rely on the red standing out from the black as their default colours, and most of those are for unfamiliar web-based entities
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 10:06
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    Just because your logo should work in restricted media, it doesn't mean it can't look better and less boring in a medium and gracefully degrade to black and white and still be consistent.
    – ecc
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 14:41
  • All logos in example can be addapted to simple BW graphics. Waymo and tCC by (clever) usage of contours, TVNZ can use fake 3D. The worst one, according to the BW adaptation, is the ECU logo.
    – Crowley
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 17:39

6 Answers 6


A logo should work as black and white because it might be used in non-conventional ways. In this case black and white denotes high contrast or 2 colors/textures. This means that the logo can be used in a setting where color is not available. Some examples of such things include:

  • Laser engraving and etching on glass

    enter image description here

    Image 1: Laser engraving on glass

  • Stripping of paint form surface. Like a computer case.

  • Milling logo as a 3d item on a surface

    enter image description here

    Image 2: Logo milled on wood. Source

  • Vinyl cuts
  • Etc.

Color is limited to printing and screen purposes. A logo needs to be versatile. By checking a high contrast version you will also understand better how the logo works in the visual system.

So in fact by expanding your creativity potential, you are in fact decreasing creative potential for the client. And at the end of the day your logo would have most likely worked in back and white if you had used a bit more brainpower on the subject.

Note: Most of the logos in your example do not necessitate color. They most work in 2 color settings. At least Waymo, tvnz and Currency Cloud can easily be made 2 color non-gradient. And even the first one probably has a black and white version.

  • I feel like saying it has to work in pure black and white is a bit extreme - mom and pop's pizza parlor isn't going to laser engrave their logo on glass most likely :P Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 13:12
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    @ZachSaucier I didnt say Has is said should. But more likely momn&pop limited in colors they can print on pizza boxes. If your design is good it can be done in 2 colors.
    – joojaa
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 14:36
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    @ZachSaucier: That makes the mom and pop pizza parlor more expensive to run than PizzaHut. PizzaHut, Dominos etc. make sure their logo work with 2 or even 1 color printing to make their pizza boxes cheap. In my experience the only people who can afford to make their logos expensive are big businesses like Hilton, IBM etc. but in their case they'd want to have their logo work with 1 color printing because they'd want giant chromed steel versions of their logos on big buildings.
    – slebetman
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 17:54
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    I'm thinking a better guideline may be "A bilevel varient of a logo should be easy to create and recognize". The Emily Carr example would be easily recognizable in bilevel if you added just two white arcs seperating the wholly greenish areas; the other three's silhouettes might even be improved by some "cuts" to provide a bit of depth, region seperation, or over/under effect.
    – Weaver
    Commented Feb 26, 2017 at 23:24
  • thanks, that's pretty much how I see it... with regards to my examples, I understand that they can have one-colour versions fairly easily, but in those cases the logos have to be adapted in order for it to be possible. Whereas logos such as Nike, Adidas, IBM (obvious examples I know) seem more powerful to me, because they don't need to 'lose' anything to be displayed as an alternative single-colour version
    – user23891
    Commented Feb 27, 2017 at 9:43

Does it need to work in b&w? Not necessarily.

I have been involved in all kinds of projects from super large rebranding projects done via top-ranked global branding consultants (read 50-100 pages branding manuals which covered every possible application), to small local firms which only applied their logo on the website + business card. In reality many of the logos produced only get used for the web and never need any b&w application. Its also true that recent "logo design trends" involve more complex artwork that is — in some cases — difficult to present in monochrome. However, this doesn't excuse a designer from not anticipating a client's needs, which leads to..

Should it work in b&w? Yes.

Its your job to sell logos that can be used in monochrome if needed. Its your job to ask the client what they use it for and anticipate the need to special applications. If you deliver without this in mind, it will be your job again to make it work in the future if they request a b&w version.


The answer is yes. At the end of the day, every logo produced by a professional should work in black and white, greyscale, and pure color. If the business doesn't see themselves putting their logo on anything other then the sign out front, then they really don't need a logo. Maybe that ma and pa pizza parlor wants to get shirts made, if the logo doesn't work in black and white, you may have a interesting time making that shirt happen.

A logo should always be created in a way, that it can be put on ANY medium, as you can never predict, where ones logo will end up.


It'd important that someone with visual impairments such as colorblindness be able to see your product or organization's logo. But I produce publications that need to be made accessible per Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Acrobat Pro's accessibility test requires me to manually check the contrast. I used to run a preflight in Acrobat and save a copy as grayscale. Now, I open my PDF in Photoshop CS6 or later. I click the View tab; click Proof Setup slide open the dropdown menu and select: Grayscale, then Photoshop's Proof setup views for grayscale and colorblindness. You can do the same thing in Illustrator.


Yes, it has to work in black and white. Well, it has no requirements. You and your client want to be prepared for the callous reproduction of the logo. For an impromptu get together, for any number of reasons, the logo, and perhaps letterhead, could be slapped on a copy machine, preferences set to b&w and reproduced and distributed.


B&W logos open a wide range of new opportunities in terms of design, it makes them more versatile and can be applied in may kind of complex backgrounds and still stand out. How are you going to apply a 2 colour logo where one color is dark and other color is bright on a dark or bright background? one of the colors will always get lost.

Logos with multiple colors will only work over white background, this will limit your ability to get creative in marketing materials such as brochures, flyers ect...

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