By Chung-Tao Tu
We live in a world of “more”: more information, more multimedia and more distraction. Some of us look back wistfully at less complicated eras. Others seek to simplify their own lives amidst the modern deluge. In design, we’ve seen a strong movement towards cleaner, simpler design. A minimalist approach can make our decisions simpler. It allows us to see what really matters, understand how it fits our needs, make the choice and move on.
Take CityMaps, the “social map” that shows you a live feed of what’s happening at places you want to go. We’re more interested in what it calls the “visual lay of the land;” that is, its focus on brand identities and visual geography. Logos replace names to make the map cleaner and easier to read. Rather than reading the names of all the shops in SoHo, you can glance at this visual map and pick out Chanel, Apple and Quiksilver within seconds.
Another interesting example of simplified design is Coke’s Freestyle machine. While the new soda fountain gives you many different choices, each brand and flavor variant are housed in bright, simplified buttons. It’s easy to choose what the machine has to offer, and then find the flavor that’s right for you.
More and more design is skewing towards minimalism and visual language. Twitter has shed its letters in favor of its blue bird; Starbucks stripped words off its logo as it expands beyond coffee. Packaging is moving towards cleaner design too. Just look at Pepsi, or Miller 64. Some brands have even started taking extraneous vowels out of their names like SCVNGR.
One of the many benefits of simplified branding is its recognition worldwide. While there may be hundreds of translations for one brand name, visual language is universal. Our world isn’t just full of information; it’s full of information in different languages. The future won’t be any less complex. How, then, do we design for the future? Clear and communicative visual design might be one approach, but will simplified designs start to look the same? Will brands lose their depth when boiled down to an essence? We’re eager to see how this minimalist design movement grows, transforms and flows into other arenas of modern-day life.