I am pretty sure he was talking about bringing the world together in racial harmony and not brand design, but Michael Jackson is as good a place to start as any:

It's black, it's white
It's tough for you
To get by...

Because, by omitting colour and creating a brand with a black and white identity, designers can make life more difficult for themselves. Think of famous brands, and one of the first things you will think of, before even the taste of that fizzy drink or the font in that logo, is the colour/s associated with the branding.

The Color Marketing Group (whose name might give an indication of bias), have published studies claiming that colour increases brand recognition by up to 80% and that colour ads are read up to 42 percent more than similar ads in black and white.

Is it as obvious as that? Should you always use colour when creating a brand?

We don’t think so. In fact, we think that there is space for brand guidelines built on colour and black and white brand identities alike - and here is why.

Colour is one element of many. By removing the focus on colour, you place the emphasis elsewhere. Embossed surfaces, simple typography and form become more important. The shift in emphasis alone is often enough to drive awareness.

By removing colour from the picture, you inevitably remove a source of emotion. Not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you want to stress professionalism and/or purity of intent. Doesn’t matter whether you are The New York Times, Clifford Chance, or an independent advertising agency; looking as if you mean business matters to all sorts of organisations.

Nothing offers as pure and readable a contrast as black and white. Copy will get read (even on a moving vehicle). Colour pictures will jump off the box.

Black and white are easily scalable. It makes sense from a budgetary perspective and, bring out the world’s smallest violin, they make life easier for the graphic designer who is rolling brand guidelines out across a multitude of channels.

Colour attracts attention? So does white space. In fact, white space works even better when the rest of the branded world is desperately trying to make a part of the rainbow theirs.

People have favourite colours. Equally, people have colours that they don’t appreciate as much. This colour psychology doesn’t apply as much with a mixture of white and black. This gives a brand the chance to approach the audience before a bad first impression can be created. Whitespace slows things down a little, creating room for both the brand and the consumer.

As you can see from our own advertising collateral , we clearly believe in the simplicity and power of black and white design. But everything in its right place; it is worth pointing out that most of our design work uses colour. The real reason to use colour, or not, is because it makes most sense for a particular brand.

By James Robinson