Logo design is getting simpler. Organisations/products, large enough and historied enough that we can track brand design evolution, provide example after example: over time, elements are flattened or removed entirely, colours are reduced and white space is increased. Anything that might be considered ‘complex’ is surplus to brand requirements.


For brand designers (and anyone with an interest in brand development), it is worth thinking about why this process is happening, and whether it is an entirely positive one.


There are two major reasons why logos are getting simpler. And although they have nothing, on the surface, to do with each other, together they act in unison and accelerate the process.


The first and older reason, is to do with established best brand practise. Call it a rule of nature that is almost always obeyed; that the brand manager/team, at every step of the development of the visual identity of a brand, will try to reduce the complexity of the message. More detail equates to more information for the consumer to process, but by reducing complexity (although holding on to supposedly ‘core’ elements), you can still communicate to your audience via your logo, and do so in less time. A logo that is quicker to digest is, so the received knowledge goes, better for the brand.


The second and more recent reason, is to do with the proliferation of (largely digital) places a logo has to live and work. In a multi-screen world, logos need to reproduce better across a far wider range of, often smaller, formats. As we pinch-to-zoom our way across our screens, it follows that the modern logo needs to be highly scalable, losing nothing of itself or its ability to communicate in the process. A simple logo is more fitted for this development than a complex one.


As a result of these two reasons, the trend towards simplicity has dovetailed in recent years.


Is it ever sensible for a designer to resist these trends with their logo design? Well, it certainly isn’t a good idea to create logos that are not scalable, or that hinder the ability of the brand to communicate with their audience, but there are instances when it is possible to over-simplify.


Brand design homogenisation, where brands end up looking like other brands is a problem (unless it’s done on purpose), and simplification is directly related to this. Sometimes, it pays to be complex enough to stand out from the crowd. We also see an issue where simplification crosses over into over-sanitisation. It is possible that logo design (and brand design in general) that is trying too hard to be inoffensive can end up being offensive through sheer drip-dry blandness.


With the above warnings in mind, perhaps it’s worth reframing simplification as less a trend than a tectonic shift. Designers can’t help but reduce things to their core elements, and it is the skill of a good one that she can do so but still effectively communicate with the desired audience.


By Oliver Brown


Image courtesy of Logo Design Love