Logos That Work: Thinking in Black and White

[vc_row equal_height=”yes” css=”.vc_custom_1504100660283{padding-top: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 80px !important;background-color: #ffffff !important;}”][vc_column animation=”wpb_bottom-to-top” css=”.vc_custom_1504100536352{margin-right: 0px !important;margin-left: 100px !important;}”][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1554990356109{margin-bottom: 0px !important;border-bottom-width: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;}”]When designing a logo, think first in black and white. Why? Because, not only is black and white design simple and elegant, beginning your logo design process in black and white can help you create a stronger, more distinctive and more versatile logo. Here are some reasons why:

  • When you design in black and white you’re able to focus on the essence of the visual concept.
  • Although logos may be small in size, they are a big part of communicating a company’s brand and mission. Coming up with the perfect solution is a distillation process. Your designer learns all they can about your product or service, your audience, your company’s voice, and your competitors. He or she then visually explores solutions that will graphically represent your company so your potential customers will understand you.
  • A really good logo often has several layers of meaning. As a viewer interacts with the logo, new insights will come forward. Keeping the design in black and white keeps the focus on the core representation of the logo—and those layers of meaning.
  • When your logo communicates your brand clearly in one color, you can be confident that it will function effectively and efficiently in all its roles—from embroidered shirt pocket print to full frontage building sign. The process of distilling and defining the concept to the essence of your business message packs your logo with the power to be small or large—with confident presence at any size.

Here are a few of our favorite logos—in black and white—with some insights into the design process.


This rendition of the historic town of Bethania is influenced by historic etchings to achieve a clear, succinct, and realistic image.


Two stylized saxophones create a W, but it takes a repeat sign to make a quartet.


The simple square is a prominent architectural feature at the Bristol Public Library. Add a clipped corner and symmetrical lines—and this logo is an open book.


Simple and pictorial.


Brewing Up Some Logo Fun

One day, the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce had a brilliant idea for a fundraiser:

Let’s bring national comedians to Kingsport for a one-night comedy club event, serve beer flowing from the tap, and pizza from local pizzerias who will vie for bragging rights and awards for Best Original Pizza, Best Specialty Pizza, and Best Overall Pizza, they said.  And we’ll call it The Brew HaHa.*

Then, chamber communications & development executive director, Bob Feagins, imagined the perfect logo for the event; a smiling, pizza eating beer stein. Chamber communications and events coordinator, Nora Davis, took pen to paper and drew a concept sketch of Feagins’ idea.

They brought the drawing to Hillhouse Creative and asked us to refine their Brew HaHa logo. We thought the pizza eating beer stein was a great idea.

Mr. Pizza Stein logo for the Kingsport Brew HaHaUsing Nora’s concept sketches as a reference, illustrator Cord Luehrman further developed the idea, with Hillhouse graphic artist, Jimmy Caswell, adding the color.

This collaborative effort led to the development of a logo that perfectly reflects the spirit of the event. We named him Mr. PizzaStein. Just looking at him brings a smile to our faces.

When we found out that the pizza makers would receive awards at the event, creative director, Jenny Kontos suggested incorporating Mr. PizzaStein on a pizza paddle for a unique award the winners can proudly display. The original shape of the award was a big hit at the event and SpeedPro Imaging did a great job with the direct-surface printing.Pizza Paddle award with BrewHaHa logo

We are honored the Chamber asked us to be a part of the development of the Brew HaHa logo.

We had a ball brewing up some logo fun.


*This isn’t an exact quote, but we like to think it happened this way.


Strengthening Community and Business Growth

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RCAM Case Study: Building the 21st Century Workforce

In 2009, Hillhouse Creative was hired by the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) to develop branding, visual identity and all informational and marketing tools for the new Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM), located in downtown Kingsport’s (Tennessee) Academic Village. RCAM is a 26,000-square-foot teaching facility designed to provide advanced manufacturing training to fill job-skills gaps faced by local business and industry. Both the Academic Village and RCAM were established through the efforts of AMP, a public-private coalition created to address workforce development issues. The partnership includes the city of Kingsport, the state of Tennessee, local industries and Northeast State Community College.

Project Goal

Local industries, such as Eastman Chemical Company and Domtar Corporation, faced losing hundreds of employees annually due to the retirement of baby boomers in this location’s working population. AMP solicited Hillhouse Creative to help educate local residents about the urgent need for trained workers and the high-tech training opportunities now available through RCAM. Monthly meetings were conducted with members of AMP to evaluate efficacy of campaign efforts.

Methods Used

Hillhouse Creative’s team developed a strategized, 18-month campaign that applied direct, first-person messaging (“I am the 21st century workforce.”) and portrait photography of real workers to hit home the reality that advanced training and job security were within reach through RCAM. Using the theme “Building the 21st Century Workforce,” the campaign we initiated included the following elements:

  • Development of new logo and visual identity (applied to business cards, letterhead, vehicle wraps, environmental graphics, signage)
  • New website, ManufacturingFuture.net
  • Overview video: “The RCAM Story: Building the 21st Century Workforce”
  • Testimonial and informational videos clips displayed on website and YouTube
  • Various rack brochures directed at advanced manufacturing students
  • Scheduled series of press releases and PSAs (print, radio, TV)
  • Various print ads for magazines and local publications


When our 18-month campaign was launched in 2009, RCAM had 145 students enrolled in its semester training programs. By 2013, enrollment at the facility had increased 190 percent.

In 2009, Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance presented its American Government Award to the Kingsport higher education initiative, which includes RCAM.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Hillhouse Video Works Tackles Troubling National Issue

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Hillhouse created a public service documentary to highlight our nation’s urgent need for criminal justice reforms.

In 2011, the United Way of Greater Kingsport contacted Hillhouse Video Works LLC about producing a short-form video for one of its charities, John R. Hay House, a local nonprofit facility that helps people re-enter society following incarceration. During production, Hillhouse film director Steve Newton and Jane Hillhouse (owner of Hillhouse Video Works) heard heart-wrenching stories from offenders who struggled heroically to rebuild their lives. They also learned troubling statistics related to sentencing practices and the high rate of recidivism in Tennessee. Hillhouse Video subsequently launched a nonprofit film project called “Outcasts: Surviving the Culture of Rejection” to highlight these issues.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” equal_height=”yes” content_placement=”middle” css=”.vc_custom_1475159915336{margin-right: 0px !important;margin-left: 0px !important;border-right-width: 0px !important;border-left-width: 0px !important;padding-right: 0px !important;padding-left: 0px !important;background-color: #f4f4f4 !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/2″ animation=”wpb_left-to-right” css=”.vc_custom_1510149478652{background-image: url(https://hillhousecreative.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/SteveCamera.jpg?id=1991) !important;background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_empty_space height=”300″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″ animation=”wpb_right-to-left” css=”.vc_custom_1474396620732{padding: 80px !important;}”][vc_custom_heading text=”BROADCAST ON EAST TENNESSEE PBS:
“…a great local program that our viewers need to see.”” font_container=”tag:h3|font_size:24px|text_align:left|line_height:1.5em” google_fonts=”font_family:Raleway%3A100%2C200%2C300%2Cregular%2C500%2C600%2C700%2C800%2C900|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1510151169853{padding-bottom: 30px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” css=”.vc_custom_1510150875577{padding-top: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

Project Goal

Led by accomplished film director Stephen Newton, Hillhouse Video Works began developing a 71-minute documentary in 2012 to spotlight the high rate of re-offending – or recidivism – that occurs not only in Tennessee but across the nation.

Methods Used

The staff of Hillhouse Video Works conducted numerous hours of research and taped more than 100 interviews to produce the film, which shows how:

  • Offenders often don’t get the help and resources needed to break the cycle of recidivism and, thus, live perpetually in a culture of social rejection.
  • American prisoners are being exploited as free labor for industry through the so-called “prison industrial complex” – a system that perpetuates incentives to lock people up with little or no attention given to individual cases or prisoner rehabilitation.

Go to the Culture of Rejection site to view a trailer of “Outcasts.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” content_placement=”middle” parallax=”content-moving” css=”.vc_custom_1510151372863{margin-right: 0px !important;margin-left: 0px !important;border-right-width: 0px !important;border-left-width: 0px !important;padding-top: 90px !important;padding-right: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 90px !important;padding-left: 0px !important;background-image: url(https://hillhousecreative.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Outcasts-BG-trans.jpg?id=2014) !important;background-position: center;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/6″ animation=”wpb_left-to-right” css=”.vc_custom_1475160542035{background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″ animation=”wpb_right-to-left” css=”.vc_custom_1474396620732{padding: 80px !important;}”][vc_custom_heading text=”Recommended by Video Librarian:
“…this is a solid title that will be especially welcome in regional collections….”” font_container=”tag:h3|font_size:35px|text_align:left|color:%23ffffff|line_height:1.5em” google_fonts=”font_family:Raleway%3A100%2C200%2C300%2Cregular%2C500%2C600%2C700%2C800%2C900|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1510151202131{padding-bottom: 20px !important;}”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” css=”.vc_custom_1510150883776{padding-top: 0px !important;padding-bottom: 0px !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]


A world premiere for “Outcasts” was held April 26, 2014, in Blountville, Tennessee, through which Hillhouse Video Works showcased the urgent need for criminal justice reforms across our nation.

The following has since occurred:

  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam appointed a task force dedicated to making criminal justice reforms in Tennessee. Gov. Haslam was featured in “Outcasts.”
  • Our film was selected to air twice on East Tennessee PBS during 2014; other PBS stations are currently being approached.
  • Our film was featured at the YES! Film Festival held November 2014 in Columbus, Indiana.
  • “Outcasts” was one of 32 films jury-selected for a free, public screening at the Down East Flick Fest held in April 2015 in Greenville, North Carolina.
  • Our film was named a 2015 AVA Digital Platinum winner by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.

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Sustaining Marketing Relationships

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Mapes Case Study: Developing E-commerce Website

Our relationship with Mapes Piano String Company, based in Elizabethton, Tennessee, is perhaps our oldest – dating back more than 35 years. Historically, Hillhouse Creative has provided Mapes with public relations, general branding and print advertising services. A family-owned (four generations), global manufacturer of piano strings, springs and specialty wires, the company was the first in America to make piano wire (since 1912) and the first to patent the piano wire manufacturing process. The company has been the sole strings supplier for Steinway & Sons, a leading piano maker, for more than a century. Today, Mapes manufactures wires and springs for numerous industries, including the U.S. Department of Defense.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” equal_height=”yes” content_placement=”middle” css=”.vc_custom_1475159915336{margin-right: 0px !important;margin-left: 0px !important;border-right-width: 0px !important;border-left-width: 0px !important;padding-right: 0px !important;padding-left: 0px !important;background-color: #f4f4f4 !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/2″ animation=”wpb_left-to-right” css=”.vc_custom_1475159817037{background-image: url(https://demos.themetrust.com/weston/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2016/09/bw_4.jpg?id=427) !important;background-position: center !important;background-repeat: no-repeat !important;background-size: cover !important;}”][vc_empty_space height=”300″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″ animation=”wpb_right-to-left” css=”.vc_custom_1474396620732{padding: 80px !important;}”][vc_custom_heading text=”“Our relationship with Mapes Piano String Company, based in Elizabethton, Tennessee, is perhaps our oldest – dating back more than 35 years.“” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left” google_fonts=”font_family:Raleway%3A100%2C200%2C300%2Cregular%2C500%2C600%2C700%2C800%2C900|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal” css=”.vc_custom_1510753462766{padding-bottom: 30px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content” css=”.vc_custom_1475160385418{padding-top: 30px !important;padding-bottom: 30px !important;}”][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]

Project Goal

Mapes came to Hillhouse in 2013 requesting assistance in developing an interactive website that would allow for around-the-clock, online purchasing of piano strings by general consumers and existing clients. In particular, Mapes wanted clients living in different time zones to have immediate access to placing orders, which would significantly reduce turn-around.

Methods Used

Hillhouse developed a website through which Mapes’ customers could set up password-accessible accounts and place piano string orders in real time simply by entering their instrument’s model and serial number. The automatic ordering capability applies to pianos made by leading piano makers, including Steinway & Sons, Baldwin, Mason & Hamlin, Yamaha Grand Pianos, Yamaha Upright Pianos, Pearl River, America Sejung and Kawai.

The site is extremely user-friendly, with large click-tabs for ordering specific products. In addition, step-by-step instructions are provided for how to measure strings that need replacing, as well as how to package damaged strings being sent for duplication.


When Mapes’ new website – mapesstrings.com – went live in 2013, the company was the first in the world to offer piano strings for sale via real-time e-commerce.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][/vc_column][/vc_row]