“Simple” Does Not Mean “Not Designed”

February 1, 2010 | Design Basics, Design Trends

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Nothing too complicated. Nothing fancy. Something simple, it shouldn’t cost too much.

These are remarks I’ve heard many times from people considering hiring me for design services. And they all seem to suggest that something that is simple is therefore easy and therefore shouldn’t cost a lot.

However, I’d argue that the cheapest design is all the stuff that falls in the middle. It’s not complicated, but it’s not simple either. It has the usual amount of fussiness and detail, and the usual amount of scale and proportion applied.

To do something simple and minimalist takes a certain design expertise (which you’ll pay for) and the ability to keep out all the extraneous details (which you’ve got to really be ready to embrace).

Some wonderful examples of minimalist design are many of Paul Rand’s logos:

Paul Rand's logos

Iconic logos by Paul Rand: ABC, IBM, and Westinghouse

Creating minimalist and simple design, is a skill that can separate a mediocre designer from the best. It’s that ability to strip a concept down to it’s essential meaning and simplest shape. Logos are the clearest example of this. But a great designer can help you follow this method by applying the same philosophy to your web site, your marketing materials, or your book cover.

I don’t want to compare myself to the legendary Paul Rand, but I do want to show that the ideals of minimalist design are alive in well even in this time period where swooshes, shadows, bevels and gradients seem to overpower too many design. Here are a few items from the Visible Logic portfolio to make my point.

Modern Epicure logo

Modern Epicure logo

Next time you are looking for something simple, realize that you need to do two things:

  1. accept that some things will be “left out” of the design
  2. work with a highly skilled designer so that the end result is beautiful, minimalist design rather than boring, unfinished looking design.


  1. Manik | October 12, 2010 at 6:09 am

    Well said. I do agree. Logo should be simple as well as well designed. This skill is responsible to generate the category of best designers.
    Very interesting article. Thanks for the post.

  2. Dennis Salvatier | January 12, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Great post. One of the pet peeves I have of young designers is their idea to cram as much crap into a logo. I think of a logo as a block of marble. I’m chipping away at it until I’m left with the essential. It’s our duty as design professionals to educate our clients on what our job entails and guide them through the process. Your post along with a recent post I wrote on the birth of logo would go great together. We should connect.

  3. Emily Brackett | January 12, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Dennis, Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to connecting. Feel free to post the link to your blog post, here.

  4. kerem azer | June 28, 2012 at 8:47 am

    This design is steller! You definitely know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Wonderful job. I truly enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!


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