Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

on February 8th, 2009

I know this has been done before (see the references at the end of this article), but I really feel like talking about monochromatic, in particular black&white logos and symbols and how beautifully and meaningfully they can create an instantly recognisable identity for brands, companies and concepts.

Starting with some well known and successful examples.

Famous logos

Nike
nike logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

The Nike “Swoosh” is a design created in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student at Portland State University. She met Phil Knight while he was teaching accounting classes and she started doing some freelance work for his company, Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS).

BRS needed a new brand for a new line of athletic footwear it was preparing to introduce in 1972. Knight approached Davidson for design ideas, and she agreed to provide them, charging a rate of $2 per hour.

In June 1971, Davidson presented a number of design options to Knight and other BRS executives, and they ultimately selected the mark now known globally as the Swoosh. The logo represents the wing of the Greek goddess Nike (or Nicé) – the winged goddess of victory, both in battle and peaceful competition..

Playboy
playboy logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

The Playboy logo has been designed by Art (Arthur) Paul in 1953.

Paul was working as a freelance designer when he in 1953 was contacted by playboy founder Hugh Hefner who needed a logo for his new magazine. He created the now famous rabbit wearing a tuxedo bow tie.

Paul went on to design the whole first edition of the magazine and was hired by Hefner as Playboy’s first art director in 1954, a position he held for 30 years.

Chanel
chanel logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

The Chanel logo design was designed in 1925 by Coco Chanel herself and remained unchanged ever since.

It turned out to be one of the most recognizable symbols in the fashion world with its overlapping double ‘C’ – one facing forward and the other facing backward.

I ♥ New York
iloveny logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

The “I ♥ NY” logo was designed by Milton Glaser for the New York State Department of Commerce in 1973.

Glaser’s minimal drawing style echoed the iconography of comic books or the dynamic of contemporary Pop Art. Much of his work has become internationally famous, like his Bob Dylan poster for CBS Records (1966) or the “I love New York” logo design.

Not strictly black, the Iogo still deserves a mention.

Not so famous (but still brilliant) logos

Zebra press
zebra logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

Designed by Paul Rand of IBM, UPS and Westinghouse fame, the Zebra Press logo is a hand-drawn beauty, created around 1965.


FlatLand
flatland logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

Designed for a clothing company by a designer who goes by the name of Ahab – this is his showcase on LogoPond.


Upside Down Productions
upside logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

Ingenious and yet very legible. Designed by Justin Saegusa – this is his showcase on LogoPond.


Curious
curious logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

Featured in Logo Lounge 4, the Curious logo was intended initially for curious.nu and designed by a Norwegian freelance artist who posts under the name of ACTION-DESIGNER.

Amaze
amaze logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

This one is very interesting: it is the artist’s personal logo, tattooed on his arm, and took three years to create. The designer is Raja Sandhu nd this is his logo design portfolio.

The concept is using one shape to create the letters ‘r’, ‘a’, ‘j’, and ‘a’ again (Raja is the designer’s first name) in a maze type of structure. The logo has been published in LogoLounge 3.

Consumer Society and Citizen Networks
cscn logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

The logo was created as a concept for the the Consumer Society and Citizen Networks (Ukraine). The Idea was to show the protection of the consumers in the simpliest way. The solution was to combine a well-known symbol of the market/consumption such as the bar code an ordinary umbrella (symbol of protection).

The designer is Jovan, and this is his logo design showcase.

Blindness
blindness logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

“Blindness” written in Braille. Nec plus ultra. The designer is Andre Sousa, and this is his logo design showcase.

Symbols

A couple of symbols deserve a mention on this list, as they are probably some of the most widespread insignia of the world.

The Euro symbol
euro logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

According to the European Commission website, the inspiration for the Euro symbol € came from the Greek epsilon (Є) – a reference to the cradle of European civilisation – and the first letter of the word Europe, crossed by two parallel lines to ‘certify’ the stability of the euro.

The euro symbol was created by the European Commission according to three criteria:

  • that it should be a highly recognisable symbol of Europe
  • that it should have a visual link with existing well-known currency symbols
  • that it should be aesthetically pleasing and easy to write by hand.
The Dollar symbol
dollar logo Logo design: beautiful black & white logos

Very fittingly, the second on the list is the dollar sign, $. Nowadays so common that nobody thinks of its provenience or significance, the dollar sign derives from a handwritten ‘ps’, an abbreviation for ‘peso’ in old Spanish-American books. The $ symbol first occurs in the 1770s, in manuscript documents of English-Americans who had business dealing with Spanish-Americans, and it starts to appear in print after 1800.

The name ‘dollar’, however, derives from the Dutch or Low German word daler (in German taler or thaler) – originally Joachimstaler, referring to a coin from the silver mines of Joachimstal, in Bohemia (now Jáchymov in the Czech Republic), which opened in 1516. (according to AskOxford)

References:

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49 Responses to “Logo design: beautiful black & white logos”

  1. Pixeljuice says:

    Its a tuff call to decide to create a logo in Black & White, I always feel like I am being lazy by not doing colour, but these logos show how effective a Black & White logo can be.

  2. Matty says:

    Black & white is a very “media” thing. I guess it comes from the obvious link of print media, i.e. black text and white paper. Looks good though.

  3. liked your post……i really love simple yet innovative kind of logos….Consumer Society and Citizen Networks’s logo is a gr8 one

  4. Raja Sandhu says:

    Great post!

    There is truly something great about black and white logos. Must be a psychological imprint.

    You are right about it being difficult to create something today that is still original, using only one colour… but for other designers out there, it’s not to say you shouldn’t try. Besides, we all start in black and white anyway.

    Thank you for the inclusion.

    PS: The site is looking great and I am fan of your work!

    • limeshot says:

      Thanks for stopping by Raja (you know I’m about to set up your fan club, so I won’t reiterate that :)); personally I think the true test of worth for any logo is the black and white version.

      I know printing advantages and the fact a lot of the logos nowadays will never get printed but only displayed on computer or iPhone screens open the way for logo experimentation as never before. Still, I am old-fashioned; to me a logo is first about the meaning and true form and only then about colour and special effects. Take yours for a great example. So yeah, it may be difficult, but great logo design can and does happen still in monochrome.

  5. Jason Black says:

    Logo simplicity… Just love the clean look of B&W!! Nice post!

  6. I love the upside down production logo. I’ve been using the black and white trick for a bit to see if a design is any good or not, if it works – THEN add colour :-)

    Love your blog design by the way :-)

  7. Beautiful designs I like the coolness of black and white logos, and am always tempted to use it in web designs.
    btw: I liked your blog too

  8. I think a good logo needs to look good as black and white. Especially if it happens to turn up on something that is going to be printed. Thanks for sharing.

  9. The upside down logo is absolutely genius. I love how it look upside down yet right side up!
    .-= ryan@designer jewelry´s last blog ..Athena Sterling Silver and 14k Gold Square-Cut African Amethyst Octagon Medallion Pendant =-.

  10. Love the beaut of Black and White.

  11. I like Black and White together but I’m going to try Black and Red. Those two colours looks awesome together.

  12. I love colors but looking at some of the logos you have displayed I can appreciate its simple yet powerful design. I really love your website’s logo – it is very unique and beautiful, and has colors :)

  13. I need a recommendation for a good company/site to design a logo for a professional association. The logo would be used for web site, stationery, stamp etc. Ideally, I do not have big budget and am looking for reasonable cost

  14. These companies have shown that your logo don’t have to have many colours to succeed and to be very beautiful.

  15. yeah, really good logo’s, black and white have some mystic power

    Homebase Furniture\\\´s last blog post: The Garden Store Garden Centres site: [site]

  16. Less is always more no matter how cliche that sounds. The acronym KISS is very appropriate for the B/W logos: keep it simple stupid. Black and white is just classy (or sophisticated).

  17. The blindness logo looks really cool. Nike is a clasic.

    Cesar\\\´s last blog post: The Tnomeralc Web Design Toys site: [site]

  18. Cool post. What’s most incredible to me is that you have the simple Nike swoosh which was designed for a mere $25, compared with the new Pepsi logo, which cost a reported $10 million!

    jaydee\\\´s last blog post: Set Up a UK Business site: [site]

  19. I think in current times where most logos are coloured and overloaded with useless stuff b/w logos can get better attantion from the customers :-).

    In my opinion Playboy and Dollar Symbol are the best from your list :-).

    Mark\\\´s last blog post: The Pulpifier site: [site]

  20. VoteAudrey says:

    Funny how so many iconic designs we might not think about but are yet instantly recognizable.

    VoteAudrey\\\´s last blog post: Tea Party Protests Across US site: [site]

  21. Actually a b&w logo is just smart. It does still cost more to print in color and this can save you a fortune when you need to make every penny count for ads.

    tracy\\\´s last blog post: Valentines Day Special Karmin Titanium Only $75.00! site: [site]

  22. I think this just goes to show you how effective black and white logo’s and advertising can be.

  23. The Nooge says:

    The real beauty of the black & white logos is that if the logo is recognizable in black & white it is in many colors.

    The reverse cannot always be said. Some logo’s just require color – but if you start in black and white you don’t need anything, but can add color.

    That’s where the greatness comes from.

    The Nooge\\\´s last blog post: Quick Recording Tip site: [site]

  24. I didn’t realize the I love new york one has been around so long. There’s something about these logos that won’t let you forget them. The companies that have been able to do this have been by far more successful because of it.

  25. The combination of black and white is a classic. It incorporates simplicity, which makes it easier for people to remember, and elegance, which draws people to it. By the way, the way you presented the collection is just perfect.

    She tell’s everything I wanted to say, I think black and white is a symbol of simplicity, and its a tradition. Likewise there are perfect together.

  26. First time seeing the zebrapress logo. I thought I’ve seen all Paul Rands work @_@ And it looks. extremely weird.

  27. Nicole says:

    The combination of black and white is a classic. It incorporates simplicity, which makes it easier for people to remember, and elegance, which draws people to it. By the way, the way you presented the collection is just perfect.

  28. It’s amazing the type of ingenuity and expressions people can come up with. I’m sure the marketing of these companies have a great deal to do with our recognition of them but the logo’s themselves, even without the companies, just stand out blatantly.

    David\\\´s last blog post: Painting Brick Fireplaces site: [site]

  29. Im a huge fan of the nike logo.. it is so simplistic and iconic at the same time.

    Tech Startup Reviews\\\´s last blog post: Irresistible: New Free WordPress Theme from WooThemes site: [site]

  30. that amaze and curious logos are just awesome. Good Post. Worth a Stumble :)

  31. tom says:

    its really intersesting when all the major brands were first discovered or made. and how different logos come and go over the years.

  32. Great collection of inspiring logo’s I think the Playboy and Nike logos are two that particularly stand out. They are simple but instantly recognisable much like the Apple logo, simple but instantly recognisable. They do say a good logo can be drawn in the sand with a stick, I have to agree. Simplicity is sometimes the best answer.

  33. I think black and white objects really stand out. When there is a lot of color it may be tough to know what your looking for. Not the case with black and white.

  34. limeshot says:

    @spot: a bad logos post would be a truly epic enterprise I do not feel equal to :)

  35. It would be interesting to have a post on bad black & white logos. I love the look of b&w but think it also takes more skill to design it well. Some attempts at b&w logos go horribly wrong.

    spot\\\´s last blog post: The Watch That Doesn’t Seem Like It Shows The Time site: [site]

  36. The Nike Swoosh has become such a classic logo. I love the basic design. I actually had a friend in high school get the logo tattooed to his arm (not recommended).

    Ryan\\\´s last blog post: Real Estate Bellingham Washington site: [site]

  37. You are right, logos must be clean :-)
    Less is more!

  38. Aaron says:

    When we look at these logos daily, we do not realize how much thought has gone into the design process.

    I particularity like the “Upside Down” logo and the “I Love NY” logo.

    Aaron\\\´s last blog post: Preventing irrelevant Google Ads from showing up on your web page site: [site]

  39. limeshot says:

    @tom and olivia: yep, I agree, the simple logos stick around the longest; after all, simplicity makes them much more recognisable.

    moreover, it has become very difficult to produce a logo that is memorable in an age where clients insist on a logo that looks just like the all the others within the industry. which are usually over-designed, involving 3D, gradients, transparency and multicolour.

    i think going back to simplicity in design will become the trend for the next few years.

  40. rock ballads says:

    The Consumer Society and Citizen Networks logo is brilliant. I agree with what Olivia had to say. B&W certainly conveys style and classiness. Moreover, simplicity often yields staying power.

    rock ballads\\\´s last blog post: Wind of Change – Scorpions site: [site]

  41. Great list – the simplest logos are the ones which stick around, and having something that works well in black and white is often ignored in favour of overly complex colourful designs.

  42. olivia says:

    Black&White immediately refers to classiness in peeple´s mind. It´s sober and not show-off. It reminds the night, and its calm. Black &white is good for luxuries(chanel)
    olivia

  43. Wii says:

    Black and white in combination always creates magic, When used properly they are such a beauty to watch at.

  44. many people like full colour logo for his company, but after i see your collectian above i think black and white logo is beautifull, simple, but so many meaning behind that

  45. technovatte says:

    Hi
    Good collections. black and white always amazing to see each other.

    technovatte\\\´s last blog post: Photosynthesis process viewed by taking Laser Snapshots site: [site]