Rosie and I met with our newest client yesterday. We’re excited about working on their site, and they have a very snazzy logo. It’s a black rhinoceros on a flatbed car, with a yellow background. It could easily be a rock band’s logo.
Often we start with a logo and use that to inform the entire design. But with black and bright yellow, there are some issues.
Black and yellow are a tough combination for the web. Many people find it hard to read the combination in text, and many more feel compelled to look away from bright yellow and black. You don’t necessarily want to use black and yellow as the primary colors for a website. (See 50 Yellow Web Designs for a bunch of snazzy and sometimes eye-watering black and yellow examples, or Tom Hapgood’s Ozark Girls Chorus for a gentler take on it — we’re not philosophically opposed to black and yellow; we just know that it can have usability issues.)
You don’t have to have a black and yellow website, either, just because the logo is black and yellow.When you put a black and yellow logo on a background of different colors, you can get very different looks.
Yellow is always a stimulating color, and is said to increase creativity. The contrast with black is highly attention-grabbing, and reminds people of things like crime scene tape and school buses.
Yet combined with royal blue or bright red, the look is reminiscent of superheroes or uniforms. You can lean into that and get a cartoon effect, but taken more seriously the look can say “cheap.”
Against a dark red like this one, the look is quite different. A small yellow element with warm, brownish colors looks bright but not necessarily garish. It may remind your viewers more of gold or sunlight.
This combination can also have a fashionable look, hard to achieve with black and yellow in general.
Add a pattern or texture — or, on a website, a more complex mix of colors — and the effect intensifies.
For most viewers, this is no longer about black and yellow at all. Animal skins, wood, light and shadow, and other natural images can come to mind with this combination.
Against gray, yellow and black return to an industrial look. Crossing stripes, hardhats on a construction site, and danger signs show up with this look.
Use a sophisticated variety of gray shades, though, and you can have a sharp look for the right subject matter.
We’re working with Jay Jaro on this project, and we don’t know yet what direction he plans to go. We can assure you, though, that your logo doesn’t have to leave you without options.