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The New Simplicity in Brand Logo Design

Michael Dula

A design style shift has been steadily occurring for some time now, and that is, a more minimal and reductive approach to corporate brand logo designs. I applaud this design style returning to brand identity — it proves that design is forever cyclical.

Going back to 1919, it was the Staatliches Bauhaus, or simply “Bauhaus” that firmly established modern industrial design. The Bauhaus “stripped away the decoration and left clean lines of function.” The Bauhaus was a thoughtful design school whose philosophy cleared the way for the modern design era.
Bauhaus

Yet a minimal, reductive design style is like walking a visual tightrope. If the final design product is off, there can be dire visual consequences, like: (a) The brand logo can appear too generic looking (think the new Microsoft logo), (b) The brand logo can appear too similar to another brand logo (think all those logos that look like DeLoitte), (c) The brand logo can just look bad (if the form of the design is off it glares with esthetic illiteracy).

Microsoft

Then there are logos like the ones associated with Starbucks, whose design origins are very illustrative and complex, and have become more reductive over time — yet their current brand logo remains complex.

As a design student, I once had an assignment that I think back to all the time. The assignment was to glue a black 1/4-inch flat round circle onto a piece of white 8 1/2 x 11 paper. It was mind-numbing how challenging this assignment was because it seemed like there were endless placement options. The result needed to look and feel right (esthetic/emotional), but it also needed to resolve into a final design composition that could be rationalized (story telling) via a single, articulated idea. Not a bad way to think about what goes into creating great logo design — maybe try this assignment on your own time.

I’ll reflect here on some of the beliefs of the iconic grand master designer of corporate identity, Paul Rand.
“Without aesthetic, design is either the humdrum repetition of familiar clichés or a wild scramble for novelty.”
“Form without relevant content, or content without meaningful form.”

So, do I think that simplicity and restraint are the best style for logo design? Not necessarily.

What makes for great corporate brand logo designs? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Great logos can be beautifully complex as well as breathtakingly minimal
  • Great logos are based on a definitive idea that tells a good story
  • Great design happens when good designers listen to their clients and good clients champion good design

Believe in great design. It’s great for business.

What do you believe are some of the greatest brand logo designs? 

 

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