In line with the “lose the color!” series that is running on Designfeedr at the moment I’ve done a little Q and A with Jeff Finley from GoMedia.
GoMedia started up in early 2003 by William Beachy and was joined by Jeff Finley in 2005. With clients ranging from Pepsi to Thrustkill records, the respected Arsenal vector packs and a massively popular online magazine GoMedia is doing everything right. Add to that the fact that GoMedia has a reputation for churning out excellent black-and-white designs/illustrations and their presence in “the lose the color!” series is more that justified.
On to the questions then, as always the comments are at your disposal to discuss the topic and let me know how you feel. Enjoy!
1. What are the benefits of choosing black-and-white compared to going color?
Sometimes, Black and White images leave the viewer with a sense of anticipation. It might not appear finished, so they can imagine what a finished piece would look like. Often times coloring your black and white drawing can ruin it. It’s a fine line. Almost always a black and white drawing, if done well, is going to impress. Whereas color can make or break your art. I know a lot of designers struggle when it comes time to color their line art.
Top: Take note of the excellent line work and use of contrast. Image by respected Go Media designer Chris Comella.
2. Does going black-and-white make things easier or more challenging from a design standpoint?
It depends, it can make it easier because it’s one less thing to worry about. But it makes it harder because you don’t have values of color to help distinguish different forms. You lose the ability to separate objects by color. It’s all done with contrast, line weight, etc. It’s a hard skill to master.
3. Is there a particular type of client that has a habit of asking for black-and-white or near monochrome work?
I haven’t found one personally. What I did find out is that when a client wants you to do design for posters that will be photocopied and distributed around town, solid black-and-white is the way to go.
4. Is there any time when you’d advise not to go with black-and-white?
This is a case by case basis. There aren’t really any rules that say don’t use black and white unless of course the medium doesn’t allow for it. I think the client and the medium are the most important factors when decided whether to stick with black-and-white or go with color. What is the budget? What does the client expect? What is the final product going to look like? However, if the choice between black and white or color is purely a creative decision, then it’s up to you. Grayscale photography has a classical feel to it, it tends to be more “artsy” so to speak. It helps create a mood.
“For the Bridge and Tunnel shirt black and white was a conscious decision, mostly to save on printing costs. It’s a lot cheaper to print one color shirts, especially on white. The look I was going for was a handmade line art collage printed very big on the shirt, so it worked out well.” - Jeff Finley
5. What’s the general reaction you get from clients when you suggest
black-and-white? Is it hard to bend the opinion of a client who’s bent on full-color to going with black-and-white if it suits the project/medium better?
The client who is dead-set on color, will usually feel black and white is “boring”
and they somehow feel they’re not getting enough bang for their buck. Sometimes
black and white art looks unfinished. If it’s a logo, a client might not be able to
visualize all the various uses their logo if they first see it in black and white
only. If you insist on the project being black and white only, just describe how it
suits the project better. It can save them on printing costs too.
6. Can you give 3 tips for someone who want’s to start doing more black-and-white work?
1. Improve the quality of your lines. Using a single color to describe form and
space is a tough skill to master.
2. Try using halftones to simulate gradients.
3. Sometimes you’ll need to do color versions to “sell” your black and white concept to a client.
“I had plans to color the Paint the Stars tee but I couldn’t come up with anything I liked. In the end I left it black-and-white. I think it’s better for it. And can be more efficient when printing it huge on a t-shirt.” - Jeff Finley
Thanks for your time Jeff. Best of luck to both you and GoMedia! Below are a bunch of links that lead to more Go Media goodness!
Go Media portfolio
Arsenal vector packs
Go Media Twitter