From McDonald’s “Golden Arches” to Nike’s “Swoosh” symbol, some of the world’s most successful brands have instantly recognisable logos. What do these logos have in common? Simplicity. Highly detailed logos can be problematic for brands, for reasons we’ll delve into in this article.
If you’re looking at designing or redesigning your own brand’s logo, read on to find out exactly why you need to keep it as simple as possible.
Clarity of brand identity
A strong identity is fundamental to creating a successful brand. This allows your brand’s personality to shine through, differentiates you from everyone else, and showcases a consistent message to customers.
Your identity must be clear to achieve these benefits, however. With logos one of the cornerstones of brand identity and likely to be prominent across all touchpoints, your own logo should clearly encapsulate your brand and the services you offer. This is something that is nigh on impossible to achieve if your design is too complex, and the public cannot tell what your brand is about, which is why your logo should be simple but focused.
This is exactly why Spotify redesigned their logo in 2013. The logo, which consists of both the brand name and their iconic ‘three lines’ icon, formerly featured ‘quirky illustrations’ around the brand name and multiple shades of green. However, according to one of the designers behind the new logo,
Christian Wilsson, people were only using the old app icon as the logo because the other elements were too complicated. This confusion did not fit into Spotify’s brand identity as a fun and easygoing company.
As a result, they instead opted for simple black and white text for the brand name, and just one shade of green for the icon. This new, straightforward design tied in perfectly to the brand’s identity and helped it shine through, with Wilsson telling Gizmodo that the company “wanted to be perceived as easy, personal and fun and the new logo matches all those criteria”.
When designing your logo, it can be easy to forget about where it’s actually going to be applied. Your logo design is likely to be published widely, including on the web, business cards, letterheads, on adverts and in shops. It is absolutely crucial that it has a strong impact wherever it is. This is something simple logos are more likely to pull off successfully, as they a lot more practical and can be easily enlarged and shrunk to fit different applications.
A complex design can instead lose details when scaled down, causing visibility issues that can end up making your company look unprofessional.
Take Levi’s iconic clipped red logo , an uncomplicated yet distinctive design that works just as well on an item of clothing as it does in a shop, something that also enables the brand to come up with exciting ways to display it. For example, teaming up with design agency Form Room to revitalise their stores, Levi’s displayed their logo using futuristic neon blue signage. The logo’s simplicity enabled them to do this, as it can be easily enlarged and scaled down depending on where it needs to go, illustrating the merits of a simple design.
Another important reason to have a simple logo is that this makes it immediately recognisable, like the McDonald’s, Twitter, and Nike examples already mentioned. Ideally, our subconscious mind should recognise a logo way before our conscious minds has time to examine it; the logo needs to bring your brand to mind as quickly as possible. This is something that a complicated logo would struggle to achieve.
A simple design also requires less cognitive processing, something which is again beneficial for a brand. Huge amounts of information fatigues our brains. We don’t want to stare at a complicated logo and have to process swathes of data, something that also makes it harder for us to commit it to memory. A simple logo gives our brains exactly what they want.
The reality is, simple logos are much more memorable and immediately associated with the brand they represent. They are much more likely to lodge themselves into our minds so that a glance is all that’s needed to recognise them. A convoluted design could look aesthetically impressive, but makes it difficult for individuals to familiarise themselves with the logo.
Take Apple’s famous “bitten apple” logo as a fantastic example of a simple but memorable logo. Although the symbol we all know was first designed in 1977 (albeit with a rainbow coloured design), it has barely changed since because it is memorable. This owes much to its simplicity, as it is easy to become familiar with. An unmemorable logo is pretty much useless.
Your logo also needs to elicit an emotional reaction from those who view it, with emotional marketing proven to influence consumers. Our minds can better process a simple logo, enabling the emotional side of ours brains to take over. However, if your logo is too complicated, cognition will override emotion and blunt its impact.
One way to achieve this simplicity is sticking to one or two colours, with 95% of top brands following this approach. This can also strengthen the emotional impact of certain colours —a range of different colours may not resonate as strongly with the public.
For reasons including being memorable and recognisable, to effectively portraying your brand identity and eliciting an emotional reaction, the most simple logo designs are the most successful. You should focus just as much on the practicality of your logo as well as its symbolism for maximum effectiveness.