Worth a read

Brand Design. Keep it simple, stupid!

I find the simple pleasures in life are usually the best; tea and toast, cycling down a mountain, the sun on your face, or a BBQ on the beach. Branding is no different. The best brands have a straightforward proposition, a clear message, a natural personality, admirable values and are visually clear and simple.

Yes, branding design should be simple. And relatively affordable. It’s certainly not about paying consultants to come up with a string of convoluted design options that they then rationalise to death before delivering a truckload of presentation boards that’s directly proportional to the size of their invoice.


Simplicity and clarity comes from getting the thinking right. Original thought is required. Ideas last, styles and trends come and go. Visually there’s nothing more disappointing than seeing brand identities tweeked to bring them ‘up to date’. Using a bit of ‘transparency’ here, and a ‘grad’ there. I think it’s sad to see this homogenisation to create ‘trendy’ brands, but then I’m no follower of fashion! Come up with the right idea, create the right environment, visually craft the brand beautifully and it’s simplicity will clearly communicate your message. It will inspire and delight your audience.


Also, simple brands last longer. Remember the old days when you bought something and it just worked forever! Like a Swiss Army knife or a Dualit toaster. Wouldn’t it be great if your brand identity would last for years and years. A brand that’ll be good enough to continue to the next generation. A brand that can easily be adapted to whatever the market requires. Creating a brand that lasts is better for its owner, for the designer and for the industry in general.


Simple brands are also easier to implement. A simple brand identity will intrinsically result in simple brand guidelines. These will be short and sweet and all the better for it. Not only will they easier to follow and implement, but they will be more affordable to produce. I once worked on a client-driven set of brand guidelines that when completed was 160 pages long. As a designer I knew the brand would never be implemented correctly. It seemed a pointless exercise, and from then on I have only produced guidelines that I would be happy to follow; which is usually less than twenty pages.


Creating a great brand isn’t easy, but it’s also not rocket science. More than anything, that original thought will inspire a design that just simply works. It’ll have that indefinable quality that makes your heart sing. The eureka moment that keeps brand designers excited by their endeavours. A magic that creates loyal fans, who will become your brand advocates for life. Think of Apple, FirstDirect, Guinness, Virgin, Skype, Howies, Wagamama, Nike, Innocent, etc. Big or small, all of these brands have a clear message, a simple visual identity, an ease of use, and it goes without saying that all this is backed up by having great products and services.

So there you have it. Keep brands simple and ultimately they’ll be more effective for it.

David James
S&® Design Partner