Keeping it Simple

In identity design, I’m always striving for the most simplified, distilled solution I can come to. That accounts for a pretty broad sliding scale; not every client is looking for a hyper-minimal logo, but even a highly illustrated, detailed piece of design usually benefits from a second pass of simplification.

Still, I think one of the most interesting brain benders in graphic design is coming to a beautiful, memorable, emotive AND minimal brand mark. It’s akin to trying tell a complete and compelling story in five words or less and while a final successful identity should feel effortless or even a “no-brainer,” in practice it is incredibly time-intensive and challenging.

Here are three baseline practices I try to keep front of mind:

  1. Design in one color.
    One of the fastest ways to tell if your logo is visually interesting is to drop it down to a single color. Is it still interesting? Does it still make sense, is it still as recognizable and memorable? Another benefit is that when you create a logo in a single color it’s easier to focus on the negative space, which should be equally visually interesting.
  2. Create movement and dimension.
    Flat, minimal logo design was popular in the mid-20th century thanks to legendary corporate identity designers like Paul Rand. As such, logos designed with basic shapes on a single plane run the risk of feeling dated or nostalgic. How can you creatively show movement or add dimension to push your mark into something new and surprising?
  3. Limit yourself to one or two elements.
    There are logos that are made of lines, there are logos that are made of polygons, there are logos that are made of organic blobs, and there are logos that are made of grids of dots. Then there are logos that are made of lines, polygons, blobs and dots. If simplicity is your goal, try to design an identity using one element. Instead of adding a circle, ask yourself: Can I make the circle with negative space, or imply the shape of a circle with the lines I am already using? Not only will your design remain inherently clean and simplified, it will be more cohesive.