How to Incorporate Color into Monochromatic Logos

by Alabaweh Baweh -
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Choosing the right colors for your logo is an important part of your branding strategy. Most brands shy away from using a huge variety of colors in their logo for a few reasons. First, historically, logos needed to be one or two colors only because of printing costs. The more colors you used, the more you ended up paying for your printed materials. Printing costs have come down significantly and the widespread use of digital marketing has all but eliminated that problem. But from a design perspective, a monochromatic logo is still the best bet. They are visually very strong. It's easier for the eyes and the brain to process and thus easier for your customers to recognize and identify. That's good for your branding.

But monochrome isn't always the answer. There are times when your brand may choose to add more color to your standard logo to celebrate a special event or for a new promotion. When you choose to add new colors to your logo, though, you need to be smart about it. Your goal will be to ensure your logo stays true to your branding and remains a recognizable part of your company look.

Incorporating Color Without Sacrificing Brand

Do Your Homework in the Design Stage

When you start designing your logo, take time to think about how you'll be using it in the future. A good design trick is to make sure that a monochromatic logo works as well in black and white. If it doesn't, you may need to subtly tweak the design to maintain brand recognition in black and white. But how does going black and white help with color incorporation? If your logo looks good in black and white, it's going to look good in a new color, too. You can easily change the hue without sacrificing the brand.

Don't worry if you long ago designed your logo without thinking about how you might want to change it in the future. While thinking ahead could save you time, you still have plenty of options to bring in new colors. Check out this article on other logo mistakes to avoid in the future, too.

A Little Color Goes a Long Way

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Once you've decided to incorporate some new colors, it's easy to get carried away. But remember that a little color can go a long way. If your logo is normally one color, go for two. It's amazing how a small change in a well-known brand can stand out visually. There is no need to go overboard, and if you do, it could backfire and hurt your branding.

Likewise, avoid changing your logo colors too often unless that's part of your brand strategy. The more variations of your logo that are out there, the harder it is for customers to recognize and identify.

Adhere to the Rest of Your Brand Standards

If there is one piece of advice to take away when it comes to incorporating color into your monochromatic logo, it's this: Make sure the logo still meets your brand standards.

Color is one facet of your branding. Your brand guidelines should also include instructions about using white space, sizing, font types, acceptable backgrounds, and more. When you break the rules for color, make sure you follow all the other branding guidelines. Altering too many rules at once can totally change your branding. That leaves it unrecognizable to your clients and customers. Breaking one rule (color) while sticking to all the rest will help maintain your brand identity.

Design Options for Incorporating Color

Change up your background.

One quick way of changing up your logo is to insert a background image. Drop the solid colors and use a patterned or multi-hued background instead. Backgrounds are especially powerful as opposed to using a single color because they can quickly convey a lot of information. For instance, a Christmas-themed background inserted into your logo is a fast visual reminder to your customers that you are ready for the holidays (and they should be, too). 

Looking for great backgrounds to use in your logo? Check out our deals on thousands of HD backgrounds ready to use in your new design. 

Change color or tone, but not both.

There is a big difference between color and tone. The tone is the lightness or darkness of the color. The hue is the color itself. Play with changing one or the other, but avoid doing both. For instance, if you normally use a blue color scheme, use your color sliders to change the hue to green. This will maintain the tone, and keeping the tone the same will keep the logo recognizable while still giving it a new look. Or, for a more subtle change, adjust the tone of your logo colors. A lighter tone may be an appropriate change for spring while a darker tone can convey seriousness and authority.

Play with smaller design elements. 

Think about adding color to smaller elements of your logo design instead of altering the entire logo. Look at elements like drop shadows and outlines. Changing the colors within these areas can make a big visual impact without overwhelming the viewer. This idea works well if your logo is normally black or white, as the color addition will be especially striking. 

Study the Masters of the Color-Changing Logo

It's always a good idea to look at how successfully branded companies are using color in their logos. Apple is the master of the color-changing logo trick. The brand's "bitten apple" is most often seen in black or white. But they aren't afraid to change it up with color, texture, and even patterned backgrounds. They've used rainbow patterns, paint splotches, clouds, and more within the space of the apple. The logo variations announce new products, build hype for announcements, and launch promotional campaigns.

And yet, you'd know the bitten apple logo anywhere you saw it. They've managed to keep the basic shape of the logo while changing up the interior pattern. They do that by sticking to their other brand standards and never altering the shape of the logo itself. 

Looking for more logo design inspiration? Check out this article about what makes a logo great and tips on how you can design one, too.