Refuse To Settle Part 1: Minimalist Design

Refuse To Settle!

When I was asked to guest write a post for the blog, my immediate thought was to do a tutorial…I mean, that’s the easy solution and I’m a graphic designer, so why not? As I started to think about what tutorial to write, though, something else kept nagging at my mind. I kept thinking about how I see terrible design attached to good, legitimate businesses. The thing is, it typically isn’t about poor execution of the specific collateral, it’s poor execution of the design…it’s as if someone decided to not put any thought into what a design should be or what the design should say about their company…as if they just settled for good enough.

A well designed piece of collateral, be it a sign, logo, business card, or even a flyer, is a direct extension of your company. Saying that good design isn’t a necessity is the same as saying that a salesman’s attitude isn’t of any importance…as long as they ring up the customer, that’s all that matters.

This has to stop!

This idea of not settling encompasses many facets of a business, so this will be a series of installments discussing subpar design and practices as well as tips on how to avoid it.

Logos

The most important factor in a company’s brand is its logo. A logo speaks volumes about a company. It can overcome a bad ad, and can be the single reason a customer takes initial interest in said company. Unfortunately, logos are also where I’ve seen a ton of seemingly lackadaisical decision making involving generic names the use of clipart.

There seems to be some confusion regarding difference between simplistic and minimalist in regards to design (and no, they’re not the same).

Simplistic vs. Minimalist
Minimalism comes from an art movement during the 60s and 70s that, at its core, is about stripping away everything that is non-essential. For the purpose of this blog, the term minimalist will be used a bit loosely, but seeing as minimalism has become a colloquialism for anything that has been stripped down to its essentials, I don’t foresee that as being a problem.

A minimalist design doesn’t mean that it will be a quick and easy design or that it should always leave the viewer questioning what it’s for; it means that it displays the necessary information and nothing else.

Iconic Minimal Logo Designs

So many companies seem to look at the success of some of the most iconic logos whose companies have decided to do away with words almost entirely (e.g. Target, McDonalds, Apple, Shell Oil) and decide that’s the route for them. They may say things like “It will create mystery and a desire to know more”wrong.

Customers will not take a chance if they don’t know what to expect.

The important factor that seems to get overlooked here is time. These companies have developed and changed their logos over long periods of time. If you look at the historical progression of these iconic logos, you’ll find that they did not start out sans-words. It was only after they had an established customer base (therefore their name became unnecessary); that they stripped down the logo so much that it no longer included the name of their company.

A minimalist design should include the necessary information. For a company that does not have a well-established customer base yet, the title of your company is absolutely a necessity. In the beginning, before everyone and their brother knows exactly what is you do, your logo needs to somehow define, at the very least, an idea of what your company does. When properly executed, a minimalist design will quickly and accurately tell the viewer who you are and what they can expect when dealing with you.

So, if a minimalist design, when done right, is one that properly defines a company’s product or service in a way that is quickly attainable, then what is simplistic?

A simplistic design often tends to be one that had the intention of being a minimalist design, but was poorly executed.

The problem with a simplistic design is that it is usually forgettable…and typically, if it isn’t forgettable, then it’s remembered for all of the wrong reasons.

For those of you who are bottom line types, here it is:

Minimalistic: Well executed, quickly and accurately portrays your company’s name and what it is you do.

Simplistic: A poorly executed minimalist design that is forgettable and/or an eye-sore.

The point here is make sure that either you or your designer fully understand both the misison that the design serves as well as what the design says about your company.

-Austin