Have you noticed that logos are getting simpler? Less artistic elements, clearer and bigger fonts, fewer colours? They almost start to look very similar! A recent tweet by David Perell pointing it out, resulted in such an interesting thread that went way beyond logos and I’ve tried to digest the interesting remarks and comments.
Seems brand design today, is about much more than fashion and trends, but what does that mean for brand identity?
Design vs Data
It’s hard to criticize designers who must perform to a customer’s brief and of course also within time and budget constraints. Designers today definitely have quicker turnaround times than in the days when teams spent hours and days brainstorming and producing ideas. The moment design became interactive – i.e., online and clickable – and not just a banner on the highway or an ad in a glossy, functionality entered the room. More than artists, designers have become architects that have to marry aesthetics and function. Today’s designs have to work on a variety of platforms and devices, and they have to be responsive. One tweet remarked that creativity today, comes in the photography, the video content, etc. – it is not up to the logo to do that job anymore. Marketing teams are focused on making the most of data to drive sales and design has to support this drive rather than fulfil artistic dreams.
The distinction between Marketing, Sales, PR and Creative has always been problematic. The cooperation is so important, but there’s often a debate about who gives the direction. Yes, you want to drive sales now, but you can’t ignore trends and long-term vision. Who are in touch with what your customer really needs, who knows what possible new customers will react to? A dream team consist of all the expertise making decisions together, but in tough economic times, it is hard to invest when often, the ROI is hard to define. Marketing Managers are often criticized for big budgets and results that are hard to measure, but data has changed the world for them. A Facebook ad can be targeted to the right audience and its success can be measured: how many reactions and click-throughs, how many responses result in actual sales from your web shop. This was never possible when there was only traditional media and advertising. No surprise then, that the Marketing Department loves data, social engineering and algorithms. And if that means compromising on creativity and design, being less unique design-wise but more recognisable and responsive, simpler but easier for online use, my bet is they’ll go that way.
Big & Busy
Cognitive overload is an important reason for design going into a more minimal and simplistic direction. I also think it is the reason why many of us might be partial to the cleaner designs. We are bombarded with so much content and communication. We are hyper-connected and the online noise is deafening. To focus, we might need something less elaborate, something we can just easily recognise and react to. The global environment in which we operate might also be friendlier to designs that are more universal and less language and culturally specific. What does this mean for brand identity and authenticity though?
Function vs Aesthetics
We are in the process of some extensive renovations at the estate and the dynamic between function and design is part of my everyday challenge. For some, the aesthetics are more important than others, but yes, we all prefer something pretty. The one thing we can’t negotiate, is functionality. What you have, must work. So, sometimes the look-and-feel team must either settle or come with a fresh suggestion. If you have to settle for a less elaborate design to ensure your logo is recognisable and readable on the small mobile screen, that it responds well to all the different platforms, then that is what you have to do. You can’t have your click-through rate suffer, because there are too many curls and colours to your design.
The global economy is under pressure. Everyone wants more bang for their buck and if I just look at the budget discussions around our own boardroom table, I guess, less money is going the way of design. Multipurpose is what it is all about – one design to work across various platforms. While a minimalistic look and feel might be fashionable, it is also more user-friendly. One of the twitter remarks says that minimalistic architecture sells easier because it is less taste specific. Makes sense, but does this mean the death of detail? Will only minimalist be able to enjoy the beauty of current design?
More than the logo
Brands are more than their logos. Rich data and online experiences give us more tools to introduce and sell our brand. Perhaps we expect less of logos today. Perhaps it is okay if they just say who we are and then click through to introduce our brands through websites, videos, photos, and stories.
Brand experience has been the topic of many a blog conversation and marketing strategy. As we are in the process of rethinking our brand experience on the estate, this is once again very much top of mind for me too. In a hospitality environment, the concepts of welcome, warm and authentic underlie everything we consider. What does the experience say of our brand? Is it an authentic message? Will guests relate to what we have to offer? How do we ensure a good experience? How accommodating can we be? How do we keep a focus on quality without being intimidating? Brand experience happens in real time and online. It has a very important task to create emotion and all that is relatable about your brand. It has to say authentic, warm, and quality, but of course, without actually saying it.
In today’s world, we have many new tools to use when talking about our brands. Perhaps our logos are getting simpler to be more functional and perhaps design trends are cleaner right now, but I don’t believe we have to compromise on authenticity or uniqueness. We just have to be smart about it.