Best Practices When Designing a Logo (The Black-and-White of It)

I’m sure designers that began their career using computers approach logo design differently than designers that jot their ideas down with pad and pencil (shout out to all of us who have received the famous “napkins ideas” from the client). But one thing stays true: In order to design a good logo, you must design it in black and white first. All design is a process, and designing a logo is no different. I strongly believe if you start in black and white, you won’t get distracted by color or color placement. And by following this one simple rule, you will get to the end result faster.

So here are the steps I believe you need to go through to achieve that perfect logo.

Begin at the Beginning

As I said, always start the design process in black and white; color will come later. This will definitely help you in the long run. One obvious advantage—say your client wants to do some print advertising; it will be necessary to have a black and white version on hand (color print ads can be costly.) Plus, working in b/w will allow you to concentrate on the logo shape and font, as well as the positive and negative space. Working backwards by trying to turn a color logo into a b/w version never provides great results. Your logo will end up with multiple grey tones, which can make it look muddy and less legible on the page.

Presenting Your Logo

By showing your ideas in b/w first, you are forcing the client to make a decision based on the logo and not a color they are drawn to. Let me pause here for a moment and say, whether you are presenting in person or electronically, present one logo per page. It not only makes a nice presentation and allows the reader to focus on each logo at a time, but it allows your client to print them out for a later look-through. After your presentation, you’ll take their comments and work in their revisions, (hopefully they don’t want you to combine 2 logos because they can’t decide!) Or, if you hit the mark, you can move to the next stage in the process—adding color.

By following these guidelines, you’ve just saved yourself a lot of time, which is great because you (and your client) haven’t been distracted by color. Remember: You have a budget, and you don’t want all your hours used at the front-end of the project. There’s still quite a bit more to do.


Turning this logo into color shouldn’t take long. If you’ve built it correctly in Illustrator, you should have no trouble adding color to it. The biggest question might be where to start. If your client is a corporate group, they may have a graphic standards manual with a color palette; start there. If not, jump in and create a handful of options. You probably already have some colors in mind that came to you while you were designing it. Color is very subjective, so don’t be discouraged; it may take a bit of time to get this step of the process where everyone is happy. One time I received an email from my contact telling me that the owner hated red; so steer clear!

At this stage, I like to do another version of the logo, so I have a “vertical” option and a “horizontal” option. These are great to have for those instances when the preferred or original logo doesn’t fit into the space allowed (like a web banner, a sponsorship page or an ad.) This will save the integrity of your logo by having you make the design decisions and not someone else.

The Final Logo

Once you have your final logo completed, you should have a b/w logo for both versions and a color logo for both versions. Take each of these versions and do a “Save As” so you can apply “Create Outlines”. This will turn any of the text into a piece of art allowing the end-user to avoid any type issues. Be sure to keep your original files in case you need to make changes to the text or alter the art in any way. In addition to your outlined .eps files (for print needs), save your finished logos in the appropriate raster versions so it can be used electronically.

Hopefully, by the end of your project, you’re happy with the results (not too much compromising) and you can say you did it within budget.

For some logo inspiration, and to see what other designers are up to, check out Logo Lounge.


Debra Novara's love affair with design and the outdoors was truly realized when just two weeks after graduation she landed in Denver with nothing more than a backpack, her portfolio and a pair of skis. After 20+ years of designing for the Denver market (and skiing every resort) she returned to Michigan where she continues to work in the design industry as a member of the NHLS Marketing team. In addition to receiving awards for her design work, Debra has taught design at universities, served on multiple design panels and is recognized as one of the founding members of the AIGA-Denver Chapter.

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Debra Novara, Branding ManagerDebra Novara

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