If you’ve looked at a company’s logo recently, you’ve probably noticed that something has changed, or to be more specific, something is missing.
Modernized and minimalist logos are all the rage. From Google to MasterCard via Dunkin’, proof that minimalism has fully taken over design world is clear.
Small unique details are lost in an abyss of bold fonts and basic shapes. Although logos are the most important visual cue people have about a brand and what it stands for, they are becoming increasingly simple and similar, losing all originality.
Take Pringles, for example. Their iconic Pringles man displayed on the packaging (named “Mr. P”), with his bushy mustache, red bow tie and voluminous hair, was a staple of so many kids’ lunches growing up.
But in 2021, Mr P was redesigned for Pringles UK products, losing his hair, bow tie and details of his mustache. According to Pringles, Mr. P’s redesign is his “boldest look yet” and the new logo simply modernized him.
But were these changes really necessary to make the brand more distinct? The warm joy of Monsieur P has been lost to an oversimplified emulation of a human face.
I know this may seem pointless, over-analyzing the importance of Mr. P’s hair, but bear with me. Beyond packaging on grocery shelves, what about design in the digital space?
Another example of oversimplified logos are Google Workspace icons, which encompass platforms such as Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Calendar.
In 2020, Google released new icons in an effort to unify colors and shapes used in icons.
For example, the Gmail icon, which was historically an envelope with a red border, has been redesigned to incorporate all of Google’s colors (red, blue, yellow, and green) along the edges. Google Calendar, which was originally a blue page of a calendar, has become a rectangular box with the four colors along the border. Google was clearly trying to give its apps a cohesive look while removing all unnecessary design elements, but that was just leads to confusion.
Where his previous icons had not only unique colors but also slight shading to give them a three-dimensional shape, the new icons are too simplified and too similar to be easily distinguished.
Outside of the digital space, there are many examples in architecture and interior design of this trend. towards minimalism.
On the Tech campus, the new student center and exhibit hall were made with very similar design choices: huge windows with uninterrupted glass, bold solid colors on the walls, concrete floors and in certain parts of the buildings, ceiling piping.
There is a lack of pattern used and huge open layouts make the buildings feel airy and fully connected.
Showcases compartmentalize the decorations in the space and a few chosen murals are carefully placed on the walls.
The spaces seem to use these minimalist design elements to create a sense of increased productivity – fewer distractions and more functionality for various uses, right? While I’ve found spaces to be very functional to work with, I don’t think this functionality is inherently due to its minimalist design. Compare the details (or lack thereof) of these buildings to other existing buildings on campus, such as the Tech Tower. These spaces remain comfortable to use and perfectly functional. Not only that, they take advantage of the fact that physical spaces are full of opportunities to add little touches of character, such as in the shape and design of windows, the moldings around the ceilings, and the patterns and floor material.
Another good example of functional spaces while taking advantage of design opportunities are subway stations. The New York City Subway features beautiful artwork in many of its stations, such as colorful and vibrant mosaics at the 34th Street-Hudson Yards station and glass artwork at Broadway station on the Astoria line. Finally, what about the furniture itself placed in physical spaces?
Again, I don’t believe that an element’s functionality (or in the digital space, the communication effectiveness of logos or icons) is intrinsically linked to its visual simplicity. One of my least favorite interior design trends is that turning furniture.
Furniture flippers will scour flea markets and thrift stores for old furniture in need of repair, and instead of just giving furniture the TLC it needs, they gut furniture and make it more “modern”.
This includes sanding the furniture and painting the original wood underneath, as well as replacing the original handles. The little details that make furniture unique are lost when modernizing for profit. We already have stores to buy new furniture – why destroy a chest of drawers that has a unique character to match the same monochromatic products that are already found anywhere? Seeing minimalism dominate so many design choices concerns me greatly.
While I fully understand that for some minimalism can be a lifestyle that resonates with their values, I cringe thinking about the richness of design that is lost to the primary. basic colors and shapes.
Even the smallest everyday things are opportunities for creative designs. From light switches and cutlery to door handles and the buttons we click on an app, our daily tasks can be enriched by the objects around us – why not make them visually interesting to look at?