Let’s say that, like me, you’ve been thinking about redesigning your logo. You don’t want anything too drastic. You want to keep your recognizability and avoid alienating your existing customers. With this much at stake, a minimal design seems ideal.
Minimalism could be defined as simple taken to extremes, and simple is good, right?
In fact, before I started analyzing my rebranding process, I would have said that simple was better — always.
Related: 5 Cardinal Rules of Logo Design
After all, simplicity is frequently touted as a major strength in graphic design in general. Some may even go so far as to say unequivocally that simple design is a must. But minimalism is a style that could potentially detract from your logo design, so it isn’t always the best choice.
I don’t want to knock it — simple does work in a lot of cases. But I’ve discovered some important reasons why simple logos to the extent of minimalism may not be best for my logo — and maybe not for yours, either.
Loss of uniqueness and memorability
If I made a shortlist of qualities that a logo absolutely must have, two of them would be the uniqueness factor and memorability.
These two really go hand in hand. A unique logo is often memorable simply because it’s unique. Of course, that doesn’t always mean it’s a good logo. Nor does it always mean that it’s successful. I tend to remember bad logos far easier than good ones, usually because they made me laugh or took me by surprise. “How did that one get approved?”
But it’s one thing if you’re mocking up a logo. It’s quite another if you’re designing a long-term logo that needs to carry the load of your branded visuals.
This calls for balance. It may be easy to get too complicated with a logo by adding a plethora of elements that don’t need to be there. But you can err on the other side, too. I’ve worked on my own mock-ups for logo ideas in the past, and I tend to keep reducing the number of elements hoping that minimalism will bring clarity.
What I’ve found instead is that sometimes excessive minimalism strips away everything unique and memorable about the design. If it’s a question of retaining those two vital elements or keeping things “minimalistic,” then I most definitely advise adding details back in.
Related: How to Create a Logo
Potential for poor messaging
Every once in a while, I come across a logo for a company that is so minimalistic I can’t quite figure out what the logo is. Or what company it represents. Or how I’m supposed to feel about it. Or whether I’m even the intended audience.
In working on my rebrand, I want to ensure that my logo makes my company — and its goals — clear. For me, that means using a combination mark with a graphic and my company name. It can be done simply, true, but it still requires a few extra elements. And I’m willing to add those in, in order to clarify my messaging.
Minimalism is in the eye of the beholder
A final reason not to force simplicity and minimalism in your logo design is that everyone defines “minimal” differently. For complex designers, five elements might be considered minimal. For those graduates of the minimalist school, a single element may be perfection, and everything else is superfluous.
Not only do graphic designers view “minimalism” as a moveable goal line, so does the audience. I could do a test run of a logo I consider simple, or even minimal, and get feedback from one person that says it’s boring and from another that says it’s too gaudy and overstuffed.
Don’t get me wrong — I absolutely advocate getting feedback from unbiased third parties, and I feel that all feedback is valid and potentially valuable. But pushing a particular design style will only impact the designer; your audience is more interested in how the logo design works overall.
If you’re chasing a minimalistic logo design, continually stripping away elements, it may not come across to your audience as “minimal” but “unfinished.”
Putting it simply
So if you shouldn’t chase minimalism, does that mean that you should overload your logo design, hoping that the plethora of elements makes it unique, memorable, on-message, and appealing to your audience?
In a word — no.
I always advocate for balance in design, especially as it relates to branding. Going too far one way or the other is more likely to alienate some of your target audience. For my rebrand, I want a logo that is clean, easy to understand, and doesn’t distract from the message. For me, I doubt minimalism will give me the results that I want. But neither will a crowded, chaotic logo design.
The point I ultimately want to make here is reflected in the way the title is worded: I don’t want to chase minimal design. Chasing design trends down tends to make the finished product feel forced and unnatural. In my business, I’ve found that it’s far more effective to allow an organic design process, which results in a logo that fits the brand — and promotes success.