Identities can be frustrating to design. When designing a book, cover, magazine, infographic, signage system, poster etc, it stays exactly the way you designed it. Identities, however, do not. They are living organisms that both should and will change over time. Even though this makes visual identities more interesting to design, it also makes it harder to do so successfully. It requires an understanding and foresight of several different aspects that other design work may not. I believe that to balance this, simplicity is key.
Identities grow quickly.
In 2018 there is no such thing as a “static” brand identity. An identity’s necessity (and hopefully; ability) to adapt to more and more surfaces increase every day. Due to this, even the simplest of concepts often result in a complex brand system sooner or later. This idea of the complex “dynamic” identity is of course fun to play around with, but as designers, we also have to think; how will this be put to use? It’s easy to overthink the concept more creatively than functionally and this has a tendency to result in a complex system only understood by the designers themselves. We’ve seen many great dynamic identities loose their footing completely when being put to actual use, because the more complicated the identity, the easier it is for the identity to change drastically once it is out of our hands.
Simplicity makes them usable.
Identities are often accompanied by a platform, that clients and audiences can easily interact with. Creating guidelines for corporate employees with no design experience is hard; it’s a continuous battle to keep a brand consistent and moving in the right direction. This is where stripping things down can be highly valuable. An identity shredded down to the core essence, keeping only the relevant elements, makes it easier. In the future, what will make the brand successful or not is often how the identity is used on a daily basis — and since it’s rare for a designer to work with the brand for a lifespan; brand designers normally have to design for “them” rather than “us”. Simplicity helps in making sure that “they” let the identity grow in the right direction and that they use it correctly. Without stating a direct correlation, I would argue that some of the most successful identities out there are understated and distinct, with a little «design» as possible. These identities are really designed for its users and are successful in providing them with methods of how to use their brand that they understand.
As Michael Bierut puts it, a designer’s job really — is to design the space, where components can live in harmony together, without confusion on how to use them. As these components are often out of our hands when we deliver the brand to the clients, we should use simplicity to help them along the way. Keep it simple, but beautiful.
Brandpad is a brand guidelines system made for studios and companies that are passionate about brand identities. If you believe that every brand is unique and that their guidelines should be too, read more about us at www.brandpad.io.