A while ago I read an excellent blog post by Mark Boulton called Five Simple Steps to Designing with Colour. Mark explains how he often starts working on a web design in black and white “Designing with black and white first will ensure that the solution doesn’t rely on colour to work.”

logo designsI had never really noticed before but I realised that I use the technique Mark uses for web design when I am designing logos. When designing a logo if you consider the worst common denominator, where the logo will looks its worse is on photocopied/laser printed documentation or in newsprint. So if the logo will work well in black and white you are part of the way to a successful solution.

I always begin with sketching, so of course at this stage my designs are totally black and white (or occasionally blue biro πŸ™‚ ), but when I begin in illustrator on the Mac they stay black and white. I find that leaving the logo designs in black and white means I have one less thing to think about. I can make sure shapes and letters fit together without being concerned about colour schemes. Its only when I am happy (more or less) with the designs that I will begin adding colour.

James Dempsey at goes one step further in his post 9 rules to creating a logo you can live with and still get paid and suggests you should only show your client their logo designs in black and white. His idea is a good one although I am not sure my clients would accept black and white logos in the first instance. When you present colour logos a client can be blinkered by the colours and not see the potential of the logo behind it. If the client hates purple, they could reject the best logo design because all they see is purple and not the shape and “feel” of a potentially successful logo.

Siong at also discusses how she designs web interfaces starting in black and white.

How do you work, do you start in black and white?