Why A Minimalist Logo Design Might Not Be For You

Recently, a marketing fever that has spread across every industry is the shift towards minimalism. 

From packaging to accessories (Yes! I’m talking about the damn chargers), and now even the logos, companies love to reflect it in every aspect of their brand. 

No doubt, it’s good for some reasons. For example, such logos are easy to recall, adaptable across every medium, and have a global appeal that ensures consistency.

But where it might work for the industry giants, pursuing a minimalist logo design for a startup business might not be as effective or even detrimental to the overall brand marketing. 

Now there are good reasons (and quite big ones) for this too. But since simply listing them out will not be enough to give you a complete idea, let’s dive in a bit deep, with research-proven facts that might change your perspective a bit!

What is minimalism (in logo design)

Mastercard Logo Design Rebrand

Minimalism is a short word for “less is better.” 

From the perspective of logo design, minimalism means shortening the logo to its most diminutive possible form with minimum embellishment yet visually aesthetic touch. 

The minimalism trend started to rise in the 1960s-70s when big brands moved from sophisticated logo texts to simplicity to become easily recognisable. 

As it complied with the cultural shift towards contemporariness, more and more companies started moving towards minimalist logo design (the bigger ones usually). 

The trend became popular, with a massive appeal towards the audience. Today, it’s a ubiquitous practice among every big and small corporation. 

Multiple companies try to achieve it by simplifying their logos to big, succinct letters (usually). 

The problem(s) with minimalist logo design

When creating a custom logo design, a brand wants to achieve three things. 

First, that the symbol perfectly resonates with the brand’s purpose, its products and services. 

Second, it is easily understood and remembered by the target audience, and last but not least, it has a distinct look that gives the company its real identity. 

To explain it, let’s assume for a second that you are my potential prospect and my business is just starting up. 

There’s much competition out there, and getting you to pursue my product or service means overcoming my competitors in the overly dense market. 

Now to make my brand visible to you, the first thing you’ll ever see or be attracted to is my logo. 

But what if I make it an overly minimalistic, not-so-attractive set of letters (or a letter), with nothing descriptive aspect explaining its context. 

There will be several complications arising as a result. You won’t know what my business stands for, what in the ruddy heavens I even sell, nor will it attract your attention as the market is already stacked up with such logos, thanks to the minimalist trend. 

The result? Well, I would call it a collective term for several things that will happen so simultaneously that I’ll have no time to recover or even compensate for it. 

Let’s break it down in an eventually correlated manner. 

First, an overly minimalist logo design will compromise my brand’s uniqueness, resulting in poor conveyance and less visibility, affecting consumer brand relations and understanding. 

Once that happens, it considerably reduces the chances of my business thriving or even being talked about. 

Especially if I don’t necessarily have a strong marketing strategy in my arsenal, no one will know how good my services/products are if no one even sees them. 

And once that happens, all my efforts will go down the drain because I couldn’t choose a suitable logo. It seems pretty strange, though, but if you even have the slightest idea of marketing tactics, you might have got the picture. 

What research says

On September 14, 2019, Business Insider published a report based on research conducted by professors from Canada, England, and France. They carried it out on 2000 students who were presented with 597 different logos. 

The logos were mainly minimalistic and descriptive, with the main motive to find out which ones they found appealing. 

During the research, the participants were informed of the products and services of different companies. They then were shown their logos (descriptive and minimalist) to check if they complied with the services/products. 

The researchers found that the participants liked descriptive logos more and that it gave them a better idea of what the brand stands for. Therefore, giving them a sense of authenticity. 

After a deep analysis of the business performance of the included brands, the research implied that “there’s a strong correlation of descriptiveness with gross profits.”

Furthermore, the study also found that about 40% of major brands still use descriptive logos compared to 70% who use minimalist ones. 

Here, a great example is Burger King and Mcdonald’s logos, both equally reputed brands, with different approaches towards logos.

Burger King And Mcdonalds Logos

The Burger King logo contains a full brand name, with buns covering it, giving it the shape of a hamburger. It fully reflects what the brand is about and what the logo represents. 

And therefore, even someone completely unfamiliar with the brand can tell what it stands for. It’s the best example of a descriptive logo. 

On the other hand, we have a logo of Mcdonald’s, perhaps the uncrowned king of the burger world, but with a logo that doesn’t explain its products or the brand in general. 

So if not for its already built image, there would be a slight chance of anyone even knowing what those golden arches are about.

Moral of the story? Descriptive logos are more profound, likeable, authentic, and convincing from the sales point of view. 

Minimalism, it’s past, the current logo trends, and the future.

To understand the reasons behind “why startups should avoid minimalism,” let’s have a walk through the history of some of the brands that so proudly relies on minimalism these days (for good reasons, though), and perhaps might be your inspiration to design a logo for your budding business. And trust me, you’ll be startled. 

Generally, early logos of each of your favourite businesses consisted of simply the brand name, with descriptive images that complemented its context. 

From history, we can take some of the best examples of brands like Pepsi Cola, McDonald’s, Ford, and Apple (their logo contained a whole Newton with an apple falling off a tree). 

Apple Logo Redesign

The strategy was simple. Start a company, make the best products, and give it a symbol that gives it a unique identity that distinguishes it from every other market competitor. 

This way, there were more chances of visibility among the masses while perfectly describing the brand’s purpose and message in a simple image.

Of course, all of them, as shown in the above-given images, moved towards contemporariness and minimalism as time passed, and they strengthened their position to a level where the logo wasn’t their identity anymore. 

But for starters, uniqueness was the key. Below given is another image that shows the logo evolution as the brand progressed:

Pepsi Logo History Evolution

Fast forward to today; how many brands do you see are making use of minimalist logo design before garnering success? 

Of course, contemporariness is inevitable, and suggesting a Newton beneath a tree with an apple on top will get you sacked in no time. But it doesn’t mean that your brand should lose its uniqueness just because it’s a “trend.” 

Remember! Brand identity and establishment first, then contemporariness, and once the name spreads, move towards minimalism. Simply replicating the trend won’t get you anywhere. 

Are minimalist logos authentic?

As a starter, you must be pretty enthusiastic about shifting towards a minimalist logo design due to its fruitful results. 

It turns out they are not as authentic as you thought. Again thanks to the research we mentioned before!

Despite giving a brief description of the companies’ services and products to the research participants, they found the minimalist logo designs less authentic and trustable because of their non-descriptive nature. 

However, this wasn’t the case with familiar and already famous brands. 

Anyways, after studying closely, researchers found that descriptive logos can increase the sense of authenticity and trust among customers, ultimately making them end up in the sales funnel. 

They derived the result after deeply comparing the profits of companies with minimalist and descriptive logos. The former ones had higher earnings than the latter. 

Is it possible for a logo to be descriptive and minimal at the same time?

Well, absolutely! Remember, the point is to stay relevant to modern contemporary standards without compromising on the descriptive aspect of the logo. 

Perhaps that’s one of the major concerns that I’m trying to explain in this article. 

As I mentioned earlier, there’s no way you can use the type of logos that we get to see in the 60s and 70s. 

However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t learn something from them. 

Since the key is to endorse your brand correctly while fully outshining your competitors, you have to be creative to find a middle ground between descriptive and minimal approach, which should do the trick. 

For example, If your company name starts with “K” and it’s related to books, it’s ok to choose “K” as your logo. 

However, there should be a book or something with it for a descriptive touch. This will give your consumers a clear idea of what your company is about. 

One of the best and paradoxically the worst examples of a minimally descriptive logo is that of Petco, a pet supply brand with a logo that fully reflected the brand’s purpose by incorporating a dog and a cat with the brand’s name. 

Without a doubt, it was beautiful, plus it gave the logo a personality that perfectly corroborated with its product. 

However, as soon as Petco tried to pull off the minimalist feat, it received immediate backlash from expert graphic artists across the globe, with some saying that “remove anything that makes the logo unique and there we are, a minimalist, modern design. Seriously, what the hell are we doing?”. 

And I daresay, the company must have lost a lot of new leads and conversions as a result as people could no longer identify with Petco. Why? 

Perhaps the difference is given between the old, descriptive, and a modern, minimalist logo design will help you understand:

Petco Logo Redesign

Is it a good time for you to move towards minimalism right now?

Well, that depends upon several factors. As you will be rebranding your corporate image by introducing a new logo, you should ask yourself a few questions. 

For example, what is the position of your company as far as the market is concerned? 

Are you sure your company is big enough to adopt a minimalist logo design that your potential prospects easily recognise? And is it even worth it? 

Especially when the current logo is quite attractive and appealing and has been generating some good profits recently?

If yes, then minimalism will turn you into another player in the “go with the flow” league. However, as a starter, it’s a straight no-no, especially after looking at the research and the marketing strategies of industry giants ruling the corporate sector. 

Remember, it’s always a step-by-step process to achieve a level where your company doesn’t need to rely on a mere logo. But that, of course, will take time. 

And till then, taking such a risky measure will have far worse consequences. As they always say… one step at a time! 

Final thoughts 

In all the buzz where preaching minimalist logo design has somehow become a ritual, I have tried to give you a fresh and honest opinion, backed up by facts, research, and a brief history of some of the biggest brands of the world (and my own experience in the corporate field as a graphic artist and CEO). 

Minimalism is not a bad practice; it requires a highly cautious approach to become a success. 

We discussed examples of how different brands eventually moved towards minimalism without compromising on their brand value. 

Still, the process was highly eventual. This reminds me to re-emphasise the fact that it’s not for new companies. 

With this, let’s sum up this article. I hope it helped you gain some valuable insights on how avoiding and pursuing certain practices in the world of logos can help or harm your business. 

If you found this piece interesting, don’t forget to leave a comment below. I would love to hear your opinion and take on the subject of minimalist logo design; moreover, answer any questions that might be going through your mind. 

Until next time! 

Branding Agency Graphic Design Studio Inkbot Design Belfast

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Author Bio: Alex Safavinia is the CEO and Creative Director of Kasra Design, an award-winning video animation company specialising in motion graphics and explainer video production. He began his career as a motion graphics artist in 2006 and soon converted his passion into a successful animation company by gathering up a team of talented artists.

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