Color Theory: Black as a Branding Color
Understand the color theory of black to make the right choice for your branding and marketing
If you are considering black as a primary color for your brand, it’s a good idea to understand the color theory of black and cultural references that are associated with it. Many companies have a black and white version of their logo for times when color ink is not available or when the color version would be hard to read. However, there are some brands that use black as their only or primary color.
Color psychology: Black is the color of mourning, darkness and evil
In the U.S., black is associated with mourning and death. People usually wear black to funerals and sports players may wear a black band or patch on their uniforms as a remembrance of the death of someone significant.
The black of night gives us a natural reference to black as associated with darkness and mystery. It can feel impenetrable and therefore ominous, scary or confusing. It also is associated with coldness based on this same reference to lacking light.
Black represents the stereotypical ‘bad guy’. Whether it’s a cat burglar or a vampire, many villains wear black.
Color psychology: Black feels rebellious
As an outgrowth of the associations with death and darkness, black is frequently used in goth fashion and for the logos of heavy metal bands. Both groups are playing off of the rebellious, anti-social aspects associated with black that also include black leather jackets, combat boots, and black dyed hair.
Color psychology: Black is the color of elegance, luxury and upscale fashion
In the world of fashion, black is a timeless classic that looks sophisticated. Whether its simple black pants, a little black dress or black turtleneck, black is always in style.
Black tuxedos and black dresses are worn at fancy events such as weddings or other more formal parties. Many luxury brands, especially in the fashion industry, use black on their logo and as their primary brand color. A black logo has a timeless elegance, and it can easily used with a broad range of other colors depending on the product line being advertised, the season or as trends change.
Color theory: Black is strong
Unlike other colors you may be considering for your branding, there are no shades or tints of black. Black is always 100% solid, making it feel strong, bold and hard. There are a number of sports brands that use black as their primary color. In looking at the color theory of black, this may be to show strength. Similar to the more luxury fashion brands, the athletic wear brands want to stay neutral with their core logo so that they use other colors in their ad campaigns or seasonal clothing lines. Timex, with its classic slogan of “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking” connects well with the durable side of black.
Black in branding and logos feels simple, neutral and sometimes not-considered
For years, getting something printed in black and white (rather than color) saved you money. With digital media, this is less of a consideration, but black has retained its position as being the ‘default’ color and can suggest low-budget, if not done right. Black type on a light background color is highly readable, so it’s still the most common choice for the type in books, newspapers, emails or websites. If you choose to use black as the primary color for your branding and marketing, make sure it feels like an intentional design decision.
Is black the right color for your logo?
Black is versatile and timeless, so it can be a great choice for nearly any brand. If you choose black as your primary brand color, you will be able to easily incorporate other colors. This is particularly helpful for companies that are selling a wide range of products such as clothing brands with lots of styles, food brands with different flavors, or any consumer brand where your offerings change from season to season.
Black logos, especially wordmark style logos, are frequently used in luxury fashion brands. It does take some design finesse to create that high-end look, but black can help your brand feel like a luxury brand.
Too much black in a design can look heavy or somber because of black’s connection with death and darkness. But many times black looks sleek and modern.
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