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Black and White: The Power of Contrast

Black and White in Design

The colors black and white are simple enough, right? However, the truth of black and white is an ancient subject, and very complex, with no simple answers. Color has power, the power to attract, and the power to affect and influence people. The color choices that are made for a project can make it or break it, but what about black and white? Even after centuries of study and debate some facts about these ‘colors’ are still argued about. The biggest one is whether they are colors at all, some schools say yes and some say no – it all depends on who you ask.

So while the debate rages between artists and printers, the power of black and white is not disputed. These two pigments have been with us since the cave painting days of the Paleolithic period. White, made first from calcite; and black, which was made from ash and charcoal. From the stone-age to the modern age, black and white have been with us the whole way. Over the ages countless artists, philosophers, and scholars have worked to perfect not only their creation, but their use of black and white as well. In fact, during his extensive career, Pablo Picasso was obsessed with black and white. Picasso claimed that color was weakness in art, and instead explored minimal color value and reduction in hues.

The contrasting power of black and white is by far the easiest to read, with the least amount of eye strain. Black and white images provoke something deep within us all. A Canadian photojournalist, Ted Grant once said “when you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!” That is the real power of black and white. They have the power to show something beyond the visual, a mysterious power to reveal ideas and feelings that go beyond the printed page.

Learn more about why you should be going back to the basics, and utilize the power of black and white in your design work.

• Black is used by many successful brands, as it represents sophistication, wealth, and elegance. Companies such as Apple utilize the power of black and white, as they ditched their rainbow colors for a more refined design.
• Monochrome, or black and white logos are versatile. They can hold their own by themselves, or be successfully paired with any brand or corporations color. They can even be inverted, and still be bold, visible, and easy to read.
• People move at a fast pace, and might only look at your business card or document for a brief moment. Black and white allows for quick comprehension, and could limit your chances of being looked over and forgotten.
• If you don’t want black and white to be your choice of colors for your brand, just make your first initial design in black and white. Reason for this is if it works in black and white, you have a good design. This is an excellent way to ensure that you have a versatile logo.
• Black and white text is much easier on the eyes. While other color choices can be effective, they can sometimes tire out your audiences’ eyes faster.

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