Deadly Sin of Logo Design #3 Fixed: Having Enough Contrast

A. Michael Shumate

A. Michael Shumate

Contrast is Rooted in Value
Every color has a value. As mentioned in chapters 8, 39 and 40, the minimum contrast of a logo should not be lower than 40% and a signature’s contrast should not be lower than 60% regardless of whether it is a positive or reversed identity.

Each of the above identities corrected signature contrasts that were too low.

A designer who only designs an identity for a light or white background has only done half a job. Every identity should be able to be reversed out of a dark background. For these situations, an alternate corporate color may be employed to assure enough contrast.

The Tronc identity works well on white but fails on a black background. Alternate colors should have been used for the “n” and “c” for reversal.

Yellows only work well on dark backgrounds, they do not give enough contrast on light or white backgrounds. Whatever motivates a designer to break this principle will evaporate to insignificance if the identity can not be easily seen. Yellows only can be used for very simple shapes.

Since signatures need 60% minimum contrast, yellows should never be used on a white background. They can work well for reversals out of a dark color as an alternate color. For logos, the lighter the yellow, the greater need for a simple design, such as the National Geographic or Synchrony logos. A straight process yellow (none shown above) is just unsuitable on white backgrounds, as it is equivalent to only about a 10% contrast.

Adapted from Logo Design Theory: How Branding Design Really Works

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