The Dark Side of Minimalist Logo Design: How It’s Harming Your Brand
The minimalist logo trend has been gaining popularity in recent years. No matter the industry, companies both big and small have been rebranding themselves, inspired by a general aesthetic of negative space. Brands are utilizing this design approach to create logos that are minimal yet creative.
Think Dunkin’ Donuts for example. Dunkin ditched its coffee cup icon in 2019 and went for a simplified logo. The new logo features just the company name in a bold sans-serif font, though the iconic pink and orange colors remain the same.
Minimalist logos can be very effective in communicating a brand to an audience. By removing unnecessary elements, they can make the brand and message easily recognizable. Additionally, minimalist logos can be easier to reproduce across a variety of mediums, both print and digital, making them a more versatile option for brands.
On the other hand, these minimalist logos are starting to appear more flat and dull, making it hard for brands to stand out in an already saturated marketplace. This ubiquitous practice, known subtly as debranding, is really just causing companies to become bland.
Despite the apparent popularity of this rebranding approach, you may be wondering why companies should avoid adopting this minimalist logo trend in 2023. Well, we have the answers!
Brands will struggle to stand out
If there’s one thing that a logo must do, even if it fails to do everything else, is that it must clearly communicate a brand’s innate character. By opting for a minimalist design, brands are stripping away their unique and distinctive elements, meaning they won’t stand out amongst the competition. Not to mention, too simple of a logo can make it difficult for consumers to differentiate between similar brands.
A minimalist logo could come across as generic and lack personality, but a more detailed logo can offer a lot more storytelling potential when it comes to communicating a brand’s mission.
To stand out, brands should try and strike a balance between simplicity and uniqueness in their logos. This may involve experimenting with color, typography, and visual elements to find a distinctive aesthetic. By taking a creative approach to their logo design process, brands can establish a compelling visual identity as long as they resist the temptation to follow trends.
Brands Will Face Scrutiny
A minimalist logo design is usually referred to as a non-descriptive logo. A non-descriptive logo is abstract in nature and can face challenges in effectively communicating what a company does.
The Harvard Business Review published a report in which researchers and participants examined 597 logo designs. These logos were split into two categories: descriptive and non-descriptive. The experiment found that participants gave a higher ranking to descriptive logos over non-descriptive logos.
This study shows that descriptive logos have a positive effect on a brand, helping to drive sales and awareness. But brands are still making the shift to a non-descriptive minimalist logo design despite these proven ideologies.
For example, Petco made the shift to a minimalist logo design in 2020. The original logo was fully reflective of its purpose by incorporating both a dog and a cat within the logo. But the new logo said goodbye to the cat and dog loved by many and opted for a logo that reflected the notion that Petco believed that their brand was recognizable in name alone. However, Petco ultimately faced scrutiny as fans believed Petco had erased what made its brand identity unique. Petco tried to do some damage control and sent out a tweet ensuring customers that both the cat and dog were here to stay, even though they are no longer present in the main logo. Fans still hope that one day Petco will restore its logo mascots, Ruff and Mews.
If brands are looking to refresh their logo, thought and consideration must go into the process. Longstanding brands have loyal customers, so they must engage their audience in this shift. Involving customers in this process through surveys or social media can not only help ensure there is a positive transition but also foster a sense of brand community and loyalty.
Ruff and Mews are here to stay. pic.twitter.com/VyP1TYr4AJ
— Petco (@Petco) December 11, 2020
Brands will lose authenticity
As one of the most recognizable and distinctive elements, a brand’s logo is highly important. So, opting for a minimalistic logo that is simple and paired down can struggle to effectively convey the brand’s values. A logo carries history and a story, and changing a logo drastically can erode consumer trust and familiarity.
A descriptive logo gives consumers a better sense of what the brand does and stands for. According to the previously mentioned report conducted by Harvard Business Review, “today’s trendy minimalist logos aren’t authentic or likable.” Additionally, researchers found that descriptive logos resonate with consumers more than minimalistic logos. Therefore, brands should carefully consider the potential impact of a logo redesign as it relates to their authenticity and identity before making any changes.
To maintain originality, brands should stay core to their messaging, values, and tone of voice. A logo should reflect and reinforce these aspects of a brand, rather than just solely follow current trends. By taking a thoughtful and authentic approach, brands can continue to establish meaningful connections with their target audience.
Nike serves as a noteworthy example of this. One of the most iconic elements of the Nike brand identity is its swoosh. Although it’s evolved over time, it has always represented the brand’s core values of performance, inspiration, and innovation. By staying true to their values, the swoosh has continued to be instantly recognizable, some may even say iconic. Nike shows that a mindful logo refresh can be a positive and effective way to keep a brand top-of-mind without sacrificing authenticity.
If a brand changes its logo too frequently or drastically, confusion among customers can be created. Consumers may have trouble associating new branding with a brand’s long-established core values. By taking a strategic approach to logo redesign, brands can maintain their authenticity.
The History of the Nike logo that cost $35 to design, a thread: pic.twitter.com/BUV4k53h7d
— SAINT (@saint) April 14, 2023
A brand’s logo is not just a visual symbol, but a representation of its personality and values. Brands should aim to strike a balance between simplicity and distinctiveness, while also taking into consideration a brand’s long-standing identity and familiarity amongst its audience. Ultimately, brands that opt for a minimalist logo should be aware of the potential drawbacks and ensure this trend is the best fit for their particular identity and marketing strategy.