A graphic illustration on why simple is (usually) better
At one time or another, every designer has heard these heart-wrenching words from a client – “I could have done that in five minutes.” We’ve heard them a few times at our shop too, usually by clients who think their logo has to look like it took fifteen hours to develop. Anything less than that runs the risk of being criticized as a clip art logo. Even though it actually took twenty hours start to finish. In a relative vacuum, they may even have a point . Technically, some logos could have been rendered in a couple of minutes. If we forget about the multiple rounds of sketching our logo design ideas. If we knew exactly what the client wanted. If they knew what they wanted. If we were able to nail down a concept in our first attempt. If the client approved said design on first blush. And if that logo consisted of simple elements, a few shapes and some off-the-shelf typography. Here’s a perfect example of such a logo, a brutally simple design for AGX Technologies, a manufacturer of high-tech fiber optics and related products.
Now that’s what we call an exercise in simplicity itself. A red circle. A black circle. Some Futura Condensed hyper-kerned font work. Could this logo be rendered in three minutes? Absolutely. In fact, anyone who knows their way around Adobe Illustrator could probably crank this design out in under a minute. Here’s the reality of the logo design process that went into this design – about two and a half days worth of design, concepts, back-and-forth with the client, doodles and general mucking about with the various elements that make up a logo. The client wanted to walk at one point. So did the designer.
This project didn’t start out that way, but as all projects at the studio do. With a client brief. A brief that contained some basic art direction. Seems the client wanted a ‘rainbow’ effect to illustrate the fiber optics portion of their business (supposed to represent light.) No problem. Working with client ideas is one of the more admirable skills of a professional designer, and one of the folks at the shop dutifully incorporated the motif into the preliminary designs (admittedly, ending up with artwork that bore more than a passing resemblance to the cover of Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd.) As well as following the client’s requirements, our designer also suggested an alternative, an elegantly simple design featuring a couple of circles and some hyper-kerned type. The designs were rejected out of hand (“too simple”) and we received a request for even more color. And more detail. And more visual metaphors. This time, we were asked to portray light that was moving down a cable. Hoh boy. This is going to get messy.
We made the type exceptionally bold to offset the increasing complexity. Added some squiggly lines. Then, we were asked to add some numbers – 0’s and 1’s to represent data – to the cacophony of disparate graphic elements. Still not hideous or anything (gotta hand it to the folks at the shop.) All in all, the logos were still decent and considering the tale the logo was now telling, fairly simplistic. Then came the globes…
As the concepts were all about the internet, and the reach of the internet is global, we were asked to toss some symbolic globes into the mix. And some data bytes. And the light. And the movement. We did what we could, the results of which are shown above. By this point, the client was getting frustrated – the project was starting to drag, and they felt our designers just weren’t “getting their vision.” For what it’s worth, the designer was getting a little anxious too. What to do? Before the project tanked completely, we decided to revisit the bare-bones concept that we had presented in the first round of preliminary designs – the red circle version – but rather than simply presenting the design again (which would have gone over like a lead balloon,) we mocked up some business cards. Simple, uncluttered, business cards.
Eureka. Seeing the simple logo in a graphic environment helped convince the client that his direction had become too complicated after all. And maybe our designers were right – a war-and-peace extravaganza wasn’t going to cut it for a high tech company. The project was saved, the logo was finalized, and we went on to create the rest of the branded artwork. Client was happy. Designer was happy. And a simple logo was launched into the wild.