The Ridiculously Simple Secret of Good Design

On the back of any food product these days we’re inundated with an enormous list of ingredients; the majority of which we haven’t a clue what they are, let alone how to pronounce them. They are fillers, stabilizers, binders, preservatives, taste enhancers and so on. Basically it’s a bunch of crap.

Recently a study by CBC came out about Subway’s chicken content. This may come to a shock to you, or maybe not given the state of most fast food chains, but they don’t serve 100% chicken. In fact, the study reports that it is an unsightly much smaller figure.

Food has evolved from an art to the science of manufacturability. It became less about the amount of nutrition and vitamins and more about the bottom line. In many ways I see a similar path being walked in logo design.

The goal of all the additives in food is to decrease cost and increase profit with a product that looks and tastes good. More often than not, the items off the shelf you see are filled with artificial flavours and colours, MSG, aspartame, carnauba wax, and just about anything else you can think of. But food serves one purpose, sustenance. All of these additives and cost savings miss the entire point of the existence of food.

In a logo, yes, we might see every treatment and the kitchen sink thrown on top. You’ll find gradients, drop shadows and literally a paragraph of text accompanying a graphic. These are things to dress up a subpar design. They are the artificial flavour enhancers that are thrown on top to mask a design that is not thought through. Just like food, they end up missing the entire purpose of a logo—recognition and brand message.

While openly disputed by Subway, CBC reported after testing that Subway’s chicken is really only about 50% chicken. The rest is a mix of soy protein etcetera. As a vegetarian I could really take this in a different direction but the issue is more of a bait and switch. It’s a symptom of the food industry that finally we are all getting more wise to.

Somehow along the way eating became less about staying alive and more about checking a task off the list. When you’re starting a new business there is a lot of work to be done and often a logo falls in the same category. Just because a graphic was created doesn’t mean a business has a logo.

And while I will admit that sounds a little haughty coming from a designer, I mean to say, it is a logo but it might be full of filler that makes it ineffective or worse.

A couple years ago we travelled to Italy and had the best food of our lives–every day, every meal (except maybe breakfasts). Italian chefs are amazing, yes. But the unifying factor amongst every place we ate was not just their skill.

The unifying factor of every meal (and every in between meal) had to do with simplicity. Every dish was based on simplicity in that it was only a handful of quality ingredients at most. It was wholesome and delicious.

Successful logos accomplish the exact same thing. They are produced from only a few elements and are ultimately “simple”.

Of course, any chef will tell you that Italian cooking is not simple. There is a lot of prep, precision, and technique involved. Cooking a simple dish with complex rich flavours is a challenge to say the least.

Just like crafting a logo that is seemingly simple and effective, it often takes the most time and creativity. A logo is like language in that it communicates complex ideas in simple pictographic form. It doesn’t matter how much pixel dust you sprinkle on a poor design, it will never communicate. It may look pretty and fun but it won’t connect.

Designs like those found on Logobook.com highlight the strength in simplicity remarkably well. All of the logos are shown in black and white only displaying their true raw form without the glitz of colour and effects. It’s perfect for perusing and inspiration.

This is what your logo needs to accomplish: Simplicity without tartrazine (yellow #5) or aspartame (artificial sweetener) and is easy to digest. The most complex ideas delivered simply are the best understood.

March 6, 2017
Posted on 
Author photo in a circle
Kyle Lincoln

Kyle is a logo crafter, avid reader, and writer. His experience expands across a wide spectrum of clients such as Nandos, Shaw Business, and Destination Canada. Growing up, it didn’t take him long to go from doodles to design. Kyle’s previous work in identities for conferences and events left him longing for something more enduring. He’s got a vested interest in helping businesses thrive and an eye for brand incongruences. In Vancouver he can be found scoping out his client’s location and/or the nearest gelateria and is always up to discuss your project or favourite flavour.

On the back of any food product these days we’re inundated with an enormous list of ingredients; the majority of which we haven’t a clue what they are, let alone how to pronounce them. They are fillers, stabilizers, binders, preservatives, taste enhancers and so on. Basically it’s a bunch of crap.

Recently a study by CBC came out about Subway’s chicken content. This may come to a shock to you, or maybe not given the state of most fast food chains, but they don’t serve 100% chicken. In fact, the study reports that it is an unsightly much smaller figure.

Food has evolved from an art to the science of manufacturability. It became less about the amount of nutrition and vitamins and more about the bottom line. In many ways I see a similar path being walked in logo design.

The goal of all the additives in food is to decrease cost and increase profit with a product that looks and tastes good. More often than not, the items off the shelf you see are filled with artificial flavours and colours, MSG, aspartame, carnauba wax, and just about anything else you can think of. But food serves one purpose, sustenance. All of these additives and cost savings miss the entire point of the existence of food.

In a logo, yes, we might see every treatment and the kitchen sink thrown on top. You’ll find gradients, drop shadows and literally a paragraph of text accompanying a graphic. These are things to dress up a subpar design. They are the artificial flavour enhancers that are thrown on top to mask a design that is not thought through. Just like food, they end up missing the entire purpose of a logo—recognition and brand message.

While openly disputed by Subway, CBC reported after testing that Subway’s chicken is really only about 50% chicken. The rest is a mix of soy protein etcetera. As a vegetarian I could really take this in a different direction but the issue is more of a bait and switch. It’s a symptom of the food industry that finally we are all getting more wise to.

Somehow along the way eating became less about staying alive and more about checking a task off the list. When you’re starting a new business there is a lot of work to be done and often a logo falls in the same category. Just because a graphic was created doesn’t mean a business has a logo.

And while I will admit that sounds a little haughty coming from a designer, I mean to say, it is a logo but it might be full of filler that makes it ineffective or worse.

A couple years ago we travelled to Italy and had the best food of our lives–every day, every meal (except maybe breakfasts). Italian chefs are amazing, yes. But the unifying factor amongst every place we ate was not just their skill.

The unifying factor of every meal (and every in between meal) had to do with simplicity. Every dish was based on simplicity in that it was only a handful of quality ingredients at most. It was wholesome and delicious.

Successful logos accomplish the exact same thing. They are produced from only a few elements and are ultimately “simple”.

Of course, any chef will tell you that Italian cooking is not simple. There is a lot of prep, precision, and technique involved. Cooking a simple dish with complex rich flavours is a challenge to say the least.

Just like crafting a logo that is seemingly simple and effective, it often takes the most time and creativity. A logo is like language in that it communicates complex ideas in simple pictographic form. It doesn’t matter how much pixel dust you sprinkle on a poor design, it will never communicate. It may look pretty and fun but it won’t connect.

Designs like those found on Logobook.com highlight the strength in simplicity remarkably well. All of the logos are shown in black and white only displaying their true raw form without the glitz of colour and effects. It’s perfect for perusing and inspiration.

This is what your logo needs to accomplish: Simplicity without tartrazine (yellow #5) or aspartame (artificial sweetener) and is easy to digest. The most complex ideas delivered simply are the best understood.

March 6, 2017
Posted on 
Author photo in a circle
Kyle Lincoln

Kyle is a logo crafter, avid reader, and writer. His experience expands across a wide spectrum of clients such as Nandos, Shaw Business, and Destination Canada. Growing up, it didn’t take him long to go from doodles to design. Kyle’s previous work in identities for conferences and events left him longing for something more enduring. He’s got a vested interest in helping businesses thrive and an eye for brand incongruences. In Vancouver he can be found scoping out his client’s location and/or the nearest gelateria and is always up to discuss your project or favourite flavour.

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