Living through challenging times and a sometimes unstable and confusing world as we are, simplicity in design can be a welcome visual experience. So often, media and digital interfaces barrage consumers with an abundance of chaotic visual stimulis and messaging. Can there be a need for relief in design—an opportunity for the eye and mind to rest, enjoy, and experience what is being presented? I believe so! Whether it’s found in a brand mark, package design, or digital touchpoint, excess doesn’t always win or satisfy. In our complex times, simple design can make a positive impact on consumer culture and experience.
Some of the world’s most successful design strategies are those that are simplest, succinctly conveying their brand story, product proposition, or vision of appeal. Unlike art, which is spontaneous and an abstract expression, good design is disciplined in its communication of an idea. Design simplicity leverages imagery, color, typography, and space and reduces them to their essential nature and purest form. Apple’s icon is exactly what it says it is: an apple, but with a bite taken out—a proprietary and clever hook that inherently communicates creativity. MasterCard went to the extent of removing its brand name and allowing its interlocking-circle icon to convey consumer connection… clean, modern, simple, and still recognizable.
Can simple design bring some positivity to our challenging times? Indeed, yes. Recently, General Motors executed its first substantial corporate identity refresh in more than a century, pivoting toward future innovation and electric vehicles. Formerly dark blue with bold capital initials in a hard box, General Motors transitioned to lowercase letterforms—more friendly and youthful. Negative space around its “M” letterform communicates the shape of an electrical plug … simple and brilliant in conception. Shifting the color palette to a vibrant and gradated cyan also helped to communicate an uplifting brand spirit.
Recently at CBX, we had the opportunity to redefine the J.M. Smucker Company’s corporate identity, transforming its strawberry imagery to an icon of growth, enthusiasm, and uplifting energy. A mobile spectrum of colors signaled diversity in people and product… compelling, yet simple and engaging.
Are better times ahead? Most of us hope so, and a simple design strategy can play a role in encouraging that movement. By removing excess, confusion, and oversaturation… simplicity can deliver a positive message, and maybe even bring the world a smile!