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Often times the most memorable designs are some of the simplest. Take for example McDonald’s golden arches, Target’s target, or Apple’s apple. All of their logos communicate the company’s identity efficiently and immediately while being as simple as possible. In design, simplicity is king when it comes to fast recognition. A complex logo that’s viewed on a roadside simply has too much going on to be quickly recognized while driving by. The best designs excel in their primary function to represent something in the most efficient and simple manner.

Purpose and Function

“Modern art” is often ridiculed by many people I talk to for being overly simplistic. I recall being in an art museum and finding myself looking at a “piece” which was a blank wall with nothing but a blue shape on it. Artwork from the Renaissance was massive, incredibly detailed, and some even took years just to finish. In a museum, it’s normal to take a seat on a bench and view a piece for an extended amount of time, finding all the neat details and taking in the full scene expertly displayed by the artist. Design is art as well, but it serves a very different purpose than what you’d find in a museum. Large paintings were made knowing they would be admired and observed. The most popular and well-known logos were made knowing precisely what setting they would be viewed in as well. This is why it makes sense that people generally enjoy and understand simple logos while disliking overly simple pieces in a museum. Their expectations for artwork are different for the different settings in which they are viewed.

Why it Works, and Why it Doesn’t

Simplicity shouldn’t be used just for simplicity’s sake. There’s good reason to simplify a company logo or brand label. Doing so makes it easier and quicker for a consumer to identify with a product or service they want or enjoy, which serves and mental reinforcement for recurring customers. Reducing a piece of artwork to an unrecognizable state accomplishes nothing. Creating a simple, unimpressive piece with no clear message or purpose accomplishes nothing. Creating a design that is simple and also recognizable accomplishes rapid recognition and immediate association with the product, brand, or service.

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