Why Minimalist Logos Are the Best for Big Business

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Minimalism is not all zen gardens and one-cup pantries.

By no means a new trend, the technique is incorporated across many visual media from architecture to music and literature. True minimalism merely maximizes simplicity by focusing on necessity.

As effortless as it may seem to subtract needless elements from a space, there is an entire process to subtracting the right elements.

While the methodology subscribes to “less is more,” the emphasis is on restraint to produce a greater impact. Minimalism finds strength in the design of a brand’s guiding symbol, its logo.

Entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking a logo design should explain their business.

A logo is a functioning aspect of a business used to uniquely identify who they are through a wordmark, icon, or image. The world’s most popular logos are a simple shape or formation of multiple shapes. Think the Apple icon, the Nike check. Does an apple denote technology or a 'swoosh' athleticism. Not on their own.

Companies want their logo to be instantly recognizable, clearly understood, and timeless. Complex logos fail to achieve these goals.

A simple logo is the way to go, and here’s why.

Minimalist Logos Are Instantly Recognizable

Netflix’s original “N” ribbon animation

Wordmarks that stand alone command attention and hold a power that excessive imagery cannot display. Strictly using text and heavy fonts, this style results in a modern aesthetic that can mature and grow with the company.

To add excitement or personality to the text, brands may tweak certain aspects of the wordmark to create an engaging focal point.

The Netflix logo is a perfect example of a minimalist approach.

Its arching letter form has lived with the brand from its inception. Netflix has evolved it from the shadowed, cinema-style, tri-colored logo. Instead of three colors, they switched to the simple red on black.

As the company shifted its business model from physical DVD rentals to the world’s largest movie streaming service, the redesigned logo is easy to recognize and even more flexible.

Tip: Is your logo sketchable? The easier it is for people to recreate, the easier it will be to remember.

Minimalist Logos Are Crystal Clear

YouTube’s redesigned logo by Christopher Bettig, the head of YouTube’s art department

Human beings are naturally claustrophobic creatures. We hate tight spaces or the feeling of being trapped. When was the last time you were in a traffic jam and said, “Finally, more cars!”?

Logos can become visual traffic jams when numerous lines and shapes come into the mix. In an attempt to create a more thoughtful design, a designer who adds elements can actually eliminate room for the customer’s imagination — or worse, create confusion.

YouTube’s old versus its new logo

In 2017, YouTube updated its logo for the first time since its launch. The change was subtle but crucial, enacting an evolution instead of a revolution.

The Play button has become the unofficial mark of the brand, emerging from its original “Tube”-within-a-tube design that was more clever in thought than application. Needless to say, the refresh was a step in the right direction.

Simple type-based logos, like YouTube’s updated version, are clear.

If the messaging is cluttered, a customer is less likely to have confidence in the brand. Lack of focus denotes a lack of expertise, which breeds distrust in the product or service.

The redesign of the YouTube wordmark and icon incorporates a flexibility in the design that works better across a variety of devices. As the logo scales, whether large or small, the details are not lost.

Minimalist Logos Are Versatile

Redesigned Google logo by in-house designers

“Can you make it bigger?”

These are the words every designer dreads to hear from a client after submitting a logo for review. However, it is understandable. Even clients with no knowledge of professional design know their logo needs to be able to live on different layouts and at various sizes.

Logos are printed on business cards, letterheads, T-shirts, even billboards. It must have the same impression no matter where it’s seen.

Simple logos are practical. Decreasing complexity increases comprehension.

Sticking to simple colors, staying away from unnecessary gradients — these make a logo scale better and allow for easy printing.

Google products and apps

After a major restructuring of the company in 2015, Google updated its image too. The new logo is akin to the original wordmark, remaining loyal to the signature colors but with a sans serif typeface.

As Google rolled out its new logo design, one major necessity was its ability to connect with the other products and apps they have under their belt (Google Search, Google Chrome, Google Maps, etc.). They all belong to the same family and must feel that way.

Minimalist Logos Build Stronger Associations

Design by Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv

Color is a huge part of a logo design, and by selecting just one color, a brand is more likely to become synonymous with it.

Most of us are familiar with the National Geographic logo, featuring a rectangular box in bright yellow. Beside it is the text National Geographic in its sans serif typeface.

The company has consistently used the same iconic color and shape to absorb the brand into the consumer consciousness. When the color becomes an intrinsic part of the design, people are more likely to become familiar with it, allowing for quicker recall.

A complex logo with multiple colors and shapes may look impressive but will be harder for consumers to familiarize themselves with. The simplest logos effectively embed themselves within our minds so that only a glance is required to recognize them.

When designing a logo, remember this: While it’s a representation of a business, it should by no means tell the whole story. A logo design should be an impression or a suggestion of a brand. By approaching a logo design in this way, it should be easier to keep things simple.

What do you think about minimalist logos? Let us know.