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.
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..
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.
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
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
Designed by Paul Rand of IBM, UPS and Westinghouse fame, the Zebra Press logo is a hand-drawn beauty, created around 1965.
Designed for a clothing company by a designer who goes by the name of Ahab – this is his showcase on LogoPond.
Upside Down Productions
Ingenious and yet very legible. Designed by Justin Saegusa – this is his showcase on LogoPond.
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.
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
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” written in Braille. Nec plus ultra. The designer is Andre Sousa, and this is his logo design showcase.
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
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
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)