White text on a black background.
Long has it been a style I admire. Long has it served as my mantra – at least on my #TeamCybis profile page. But even longer has it been a method that is recommended, yet advised against, praised and down-right hated. In design terms, it’s called inverted text. In ink and paint terms it’s a reversal. It’s opposite of how we read pretty much 99% of all text. I think even this blog is black on white.
I like opposites. I like doing the unexpected. I’m an inverter. A reversist. (Maybe that one is a stretch of the English language).
Ok to tell you the truth, even as a self-proclaimed “inverter” of text, I’m certainly not a purist when it comes down to using it. See our Cybis icon? Or the Cybis tagline you’ll find hiding at the end of most of our video productions? Those may be the only actual places I’ve practiced with absolute compliance with what my profile page preaches. Most of the time, I can’t help but add a lens flare, or two. Maybe some flickering particles… or a little texture or grain. But, the principal is the same. It even works well with other players besides black and white. White text on red works. Take stop signs, and the Target’s bullseye logo. Or how about this one:
In general I think it’s one of the easiest ways to get a message across, because the message is the only thing in the picture. It’s clutter free. It’s pure typography. It’s you and the story/message/logo/tagline/joke interfacing without interference from anything else. You have no choice but to focus on the words and contemplate their meaning. Inevitably, the black expanse around the white text is a blank canvas onto which every reader paints his own picture. (Notice I haven’t mentioned that it’s cheap to produce… because, well, that really isn’t true).
It certainly isn’t always the best approach. It’s just one of many. There are many who are steadfast in their disapproval of the style. Marketing firm, Transio, says:
- Inverted text is proven to decrease readership by as much as 50%.
- Inverted text is exactly opposite from the format of text people are used to reading (black-on-white).
- Readers cannot easily focus on any one piece of text for a long period of time
This, apparently, comes from “years of market research in the field of advertising.” Maybe the facts are true, but I categorically disagree. My argument? Because I’m the Creative Director, and I think white text on black is cool, effective, efficient, and pretty damn sweet. So there!
While we’re on the topic of black and white. Check out this awesome title sequence that is kinda white-text-on-black. It’s for the awe-inspiring PS3 Title “The Last of Us,” (which, if you haven’t played, is mind-numbingly good, and is video-game storytelling at its best… it literally makes you cry). Anyway, it’s a game set in a post-apocalyptic 2033, years after an outbreak of a fungus that wipes out 90% of Earth’s citizens. The fungus attacks the brain and spreads itself through airborne spores. The title sequence sets up the visuals well with a haunting but beautiful soundtrack. It’s chaotic and mesmerizing, and it’s all white on black.
Keep on invertin’ people!
Post by Clayton Carter, Creative Director