Although it is fashionable, minimalism in brand design isn’t just a fad. There are solid reasons why designers and their clients are prone to think about stripping things back whenever the opportunity presents itself. Minimal brand design often works better than a less minimalist alternative.


Minimal design can (as a starter for ten) help narrow the options toward conversion, assist in delivering uncluttered brand communications (space gives key communications room to breath) – and there are further reasons when we consider online brand design; it’s easier to create responsive design that is minimal, easier to update and often easier to navigate.


We are fans of minimalist design for lots of reasons, but we are also aware that minimalism isn’t always the right answer (in design, nothing is). That there are moments when using it is simply a result of following design fashion rather than good design practise.

  1. The harder it is to access a piece of information, the better that information is absorbed. Minimal design is, understandably, loved by advertisers and brands because key messages can be delivered without anything to get in the way. It’s counter-intuitive to say, but sometimes ease of delivery isn’t a good thing. Adam Alteris is a psychologist who has written about “cognitive disfluency”: where information glides without friction, we find it harder to understand and retain that information (which is about as good a description of my online reading habits, on so many beautifully minimal sites, as I’ve ever heard). We might, one day, reach the point where we can split messages (and appropriate design) between those that need to prioritise ease of delivery and those that need to prioritise absorption and recall.


  1. Because it has a reduced number of disparate elements, minimal design can struggle to look unique. There are enough IKEA houses and iPhones out there as it is, and that’s without considering the copycat designs. Minimal design, through its very popularity, leaves large holes for brands who consider individuality as a desirable trait.


  1. Beautiful minimalist design can, whisper it, get a wee bit dull. There. We said it. It is a school of design that places emphasis on sleekness, luxury and usability, not to mention ease of creation, over character, individuality and excitement. Whether a brand is actually looking for those traits or not is a separate issue, but choosing minimal design, whatever the medium, simply because everyone else is, lacks the courage that truly great brand design requires.


Using minimalist design or not requires a good understanding of the audience and needs of a brand. What content and communications are going to need to be delivered, and to whom? Consider these points and you’ll have taken a good first step toward knowing whether it makes sense for your brand or not.


By Oliver Brown