Minimalism in branding: Is less more?

Posted in Business and entrepreneurship.

Minimalism in branding is the deliberate simplification of a design, utilising simple shapes, colour palettes, and typesetting. You have seen it everywhere in the market. It can come across as sleek, subtle, or just plain, but it is a deliberate style that is very suited to our modern lives.

Brands are tending towards minimalism

Minimalism isn’t a relatively new development. It has always been a utilised style – think of national flags – but there are factors in our modern lives that have made minimalism all the more present. In bustling metropolises, you will notice that many brands and advertisements adopt a minimalist style. This is important as people in larger cities are often bombarded with all sorts of information that it is hard to sift through every single intricate design. In other words, looking at many different brands each with their own intricate decorations is hard on the eyes and is thus lost in a soup of visual information.

Trends show that modernisation is often linked with minimalist designs, and we can easily see why. Increased modernization tends to come with an increase in information presentation. There is a need to simplify designs in order to make it more easily recognizable among other designs all vying for the market’s attention. A simpler design requires less brain processing in order to fully process it. Modern brands have only around a split second to make an impression before customers’ attention is called elsewhere.

The advent of the internet and social media has reduced our attention spans even further in a world where we are inundated with even more information. People just don’t have the time to decipher a fancy cursive logo (never mind that less and less people can read or write cursive) nor appreciate an intricate design.

As the available market grows, competition grows, and attention spans shrink, minimalism is cementing itself as more than just a trend, but a natural inclination.

Minimalism is often associated with the future

As designs and brands become more and more minimalist with each passing innovation, we have conditioned ourselves to see minimalist designs as modern, or even futuristic. This is due in part to the link between efficiency and the future. Stripping an object down to its most basic form while retaining its function lends itself to this image of sleekness. The undoing of these unnecessary garnishes is the heart of minimalism.

Think back to phones. Telephones were big and immobile. Then, portable cell phones were introduced that, while still bulky, essentially eliminated all but the handle. Over a period of less than 30 years, cell phones evolved into slimmer and slimmer models. Smartphones carried on the tradition of slimming down phones. While they may have grown in size over time, thinner smartphones are seen as sleeker and more modern.

The minimalisation of modern innovative products has wired us to associate the two together, and tech companies know to capitalise on this.

The trend of brands minimalising their existing designs will continue

Whether the goal is to appear more modern or futuristic, or to compete in an ever-accelerating environment, yesterday’s brands are changing their designs to fit this minimalist branding landscape. Websites have become a lot more minimalist as well, opting to show you only the information you seek without subjecting you to overt decorations. Compare Google’s homepage to Yahoo!’s. Google has the logo above the search bar and that’s basically it. It draws you to the main purpose of the webpage. Yahoo!’s homepage is filled with news information and links to trendy topics. While it is a search engine, this design is more reminiscent of a news feed.

Minimalising existing brands poses the danger of removing a brand’s identity. Few brands can get away with not showing their name on the logo nor not incorporating an image into the logo. Popular brands have done this with success, but by the time this has happened, the logo had already become synonymous with the brand and including the name was unnecessary. Prime examples include McDonald’s and Starbucks. Some businesses have even combined the logo and the name. Both Domino’s Pizza and Apple have logos that conjure up the image of their name.

However, for people that have become accustomed to a brand’s design, leaning into a more minimalistic design can be seen as something unnecessarily different, often as a decrease in design quality. Shading is foregone for flat colours, and intricate shapes are dropped in favour of simplistic shapes. Whether a design is bad or not is up to individual subjection, yes, but nostalgia can also influence our biases.

Minimalistic designs serve more than just to cope in a fast-paced world. It is much easier to incorporate a minimalistic design in varied situations. Consistency is key when attempting to build a solid brand image. A minimalistic design ensures that designs do not need to be edited for different media. Your brand on social media can directly mimic your brand in print and so on.

Minimalism is it’s own art style much like how music has different genres. Different art styles may focus on different aspects of design. Intricacy and detail are obviously not where minimalism excels at, but the style itself still has a lot of room for creativity. Colour design, spacing, font, functionality, and layout are all the more important in minimalistic designs. Since there are less elements to work with, these design choices hold a lot more weight.

Minimalism as an art form will still continue and as we continue to associate efficiency – and by proxy, minimalism – we will continue to adopt minimalistic designs to convey innovation. With our attention being dragged in every which way, it’s not an unrecognisably detailed design that is going to leave an impression. After all, we can barely pay enough attention to appreciate it. It’s a brand that can leave an impression with the least amount of attention it is paid that will come out on top.