As a designer I am very, very fond of a bit of monochrome… the simple elegance of using black and white… just beautiful. But how and why do these colours work and have such a great impact?
And just to clarify before I hear you say smugly (while sliding them knowledgeable wide framed glasses up your nose) ‘Duh Charlene… black and white aren’t colours..?!’. They technically are. If we take painting for an example black is the presence of all colours, whereas white is the absence of any colour. And if we look at light frequency white is the presence of all colours, whereas black is the presence of none, as without light everything is black hence no colour. So technically black and white are colours in their own right. Think about it, if someone asked you ‘What colour is a Zebra?’. How would you honestly answer them?!
With this in mind and treating black and white quite rightfully so as a colour, how and why do they work so well together?! Like … they even wrote a song about it!!
Well, black and white are two of the most emotive visuals in nature. They are polar opposites with opposing meanings. As a society we have placed huge semiotic content onto these two colours. Black is visually heavy and powerful making it’s message very strong. While white is visually clean and open which also makes it’s message very strong. So even though they are opposites they still contain a similar powerful impact.
For example let’s take a look at the Yin and Yang symbol. In Chinese philosophy the Yin and Yang symbol represents ‘Bright & Dark’, ‘Positive & Negative’. It conveys how seemingly opposite and contrary forces are complimentary to each other. They are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, which gives rise to each other as they interrelate. Such as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker they are portrayed using colour to define who they are and what they stand for. Dark-Bad, Light-Good… (also on the idea of interrelation… didn’t Luke try to ‘interrelated’ with his sister..?!) Anyway without dark and light… black and white, technically there would be no Star Wars right?! (Oooo that rhymed..!! 😀 ….)
Anyway as we’ve discussed black and white are total opposites in a visual and cultural sense but in design opposites attract. And when used in a professional marketing sense they won’t compete but rather complete. Their contrast creates complementing completion. For example lets look at a black and white editorial design.
In essence this editorial is just plain text, but visually it is interesting and beautiful. It is a work of art in itself thanks to the use of black and white and the positioning of type on the pages. Because of these components of colour and placement this ‘just boring type’ editorial is now far from that. The black and white combination has created great impact and it achieves this by its complementing contrasts. But also an accent colour used within the black and white can create hierarchical attention which also adds to this powerful, visually harmonious messaging. Just take a look at this work of art below..!! (wonder what awesome person did that..?!) 😉
So all in all black and white is hot design wise. It has a powerful yet beautiful impact visually. It can make make the mundane look and feel striking. And best of all… black and white is so clean and modern, it can never be outdated. So it isn’t just black and white, it’s the black, the white and all the awesomeness that comes with it..!!
I’d like to hear what you think about monochrome/black and white design.. Should never the Twain meet..? Or do you wanna write a song about it like Michael Jackson you love it that much..? Feel free to leave a comment… I like talking to strangers..!! 😉