Logo Design Visual Technique #8: Essence

A. Michael Shumate

A. Michael Shumate

In identity design the most important question to ask is not “What can I add to this design?” but rather, “What can I remove? How can I simplify it, reduce it?” and “How can I show the essence of this subject?”

As we have stressed before, a good logo is not an illustration or a photograph. It is a symbol that reminds us of something, but it needs to be elegant in its restraint. This has been the whole trend of the corporate-identity design industry for the past century (see my posts on the history of branding design).

Simplicity is the soul of good design, and it is the key to identities that stand the test of time. Pare down, simplify and find the essence of the image. This is where you can make your design exquisite – before you add colors or any other bells and whistles. Make a solid foundation, and you can build a solid identity. Skimp on this stage, and you will have made yet another mediocre logo that eventually will be replaced.

Of all the ten Visual Processing Techniques, striving for simplicity is one that should always be employed. Paradoxically, less detail and a cleaner rendering can mean a clearer image, which is the quality that the longest lasting identities share in common.

In the upper left is the old logo for Rockport Publishers and its newer replacement. See how the pared down, simpler logo is visually stronger and easier to read? Each other section shows logos not from the same company, but using the same visual subject. In each case, the first samples are more literal on the left and simpler on the right. Notice how each of the simpler logos is stronger, can be seen and comprehended more easily and will be more memorable than the more detailed and realistic versions.

Adapted from Logo Design Theory: How Branding Design Really Works

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