Is minimalism an appropriate brand differentiator?


The trend of minimalist branding

We’ve had some recent discussion with clients and in turn in the studio about the relevance of minimalism in brand identity or logo design. Some point to a trend of recent rebrands like Pentegram’s work for Mastrcard, wondering if there’s a trend occurring. Maybe it is the guiding aesthete of uber brands like Apple that is driving this forward. Or more likely it is a drive for sophistication that these brands are responding to.

What I believe we’re seeing is a confluence of reasons for this trend: The drive for brands to identify with our aspirational lifestyles, the generational influence of the Occam’s razor aesthetic and the influence of the mega brands like Google.

If every brand is premium, no brand is premium.

All brands want to be aspirational. They want us to identify with them, and adopt them into our lives. They want us to see the gap in our lives and fill it with their brand. And for many brands this means been seen as a premium brand, and specifically a premium lifestyle brand. Where before it was alright for software companies to be technical and credit cards to be financial now they want to be a premium lifestyle brands. If minimalism can be seen an affectation of aesthetic education, then it’s quite understandable why it is so attractive to these brands. It proves they have taste. It underscores they’re aspirational appeal. It imbues them with sophistication.

The natural evolution of branding.

As brands grow and over time need to reconnect with their market they rebrand. Sometimes it’s by leaps, sometimes by steps, but it happens. As with all things brands must move with the times. We’re all well aware of the evolutionary development of brands like Shell and CocaCola. But looking through these we see a steady influence of simplicity. A paring back with each evolutionary step the brand mark. Removing superfluous details. Clarifying meaning. Focusing the brands personality. Which naturally moves brands towards a more minimalist logo, if not identity.

Following the Vanguard.

Who are they ultimate arbiters of brand style and style in general. Of course it is the fashion brands, who themselves have used minimalist design in their identities from the beginning. These are the brands that are the embodiment of premium. These are the brand marks that will probably never change. Always elegant, they float is a sea of change while never being out of date. And this is the inspiration for the refinement we see in the modernist drive of new identities. If you can create an identity that is above style, it will be unaffected by changes in fashion and naturally be a more valuable solution.

Is minimalism right for your brand?

So knowing all this should you be evolving your brand to a minimalist brand? If you are trying to be premium? Then maybe, depending on you brand personality. If you are refining and evolving your brand? Then yes, it maybe a valuable reference to see how minimal you can go. If you are attempting to ape the look and feel of true premium brands, then no. You really need to rethink your brand strategy and maybe look for ways to be premium and differentiate your brand. After all, like anything else, taken too far minimalism taken too far can do more damage then good.

Derek Carroll

Derek is the Creative Partner at Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in creating beautiful, effective and unique brand identities that bring strategy to life and resonate with audiences. Derek has extensive experience developing consumer, business, community and government brands.
Find out more at…
For monthly updates of our thinking, click here to receive our free Brand Newsletter

Post a comment

Tags: , , , , , , , ,