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There are a lot of brands out there that just have a simple wordmark — no icon and no customised type.

It can be a good route to go down when designing something that needs a premium / luxury kind of look to it... such as a brand for an architect or fashion designer for example

calvin klein logo

But how do designers justify it? Shouldn't all brands have some kind of idea or concept behind their brand identity? Or is it acceptable for the rationale to be along the lines of the following:

We kept the logo very clean and minimal to reflect the high quality of work that our client carries out.

I think the above certainly works, but I sometimes struggle to think of how to justify this kind of design decision and to make clients realise why this might be the outcome of the money they have spent.

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    It's not always obvious just by looking at a 'simple' logo how much work was put into it to get the result you see. Sometimes there's a lot of research and development involved. – Luciano Feb 6 '17 at 15:56
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    Your quoted section is a concept. – DA01 Feb 6 '17 at 23:52
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    This logo type has several ideas and concepts in it. They are largely associative, meaning the look makes us associate ideas and feelings. The cleanness, Capitol letters, sleek letterforms and balance all convey class, upscale, refined, luxury. The tight kerning and equal heights imply control, carefullness and quality. The fact that it's just the name conveys understated and confidence. They don't need fancy excessive shapes or art, like their clothes it is sleek, elegant and simple. – Webster Feb 7 '17 at 3:19
  • I highly, highly recommend reading Logo Design Love by David Airey to help flesh out this idea. It has great case studies including ones that have a simple looking end result but used a lot of research, time, and money. – Rick Henderson Feb 8 '17 at 15:33
  • @RickHenderson ah thanks although I've actually read that already! I remember thinking that it wasn't as insightful as I'd hoped, maybe I should have another look through it though – pealo86 Feb 8 '17 at 17:46
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A design should always back a concept or an idea. And as you said you already have it..you want to look it simple and minimal so that it denotes high end luxury and simplicity that catches eye.

I think this should justify the money they are spending. And they will certainly understand that. But with a condition that they don't have a picture in mind already set. Because that is difficult to change. But if not this justification is convincing enough.

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    I've dealt with some clients who would never accept that Calvin Klein logo, because they would think it's "too simple." They would say, "I could have done that." Even with explaining, they lack the ability to appreciate the elegant letterforms and how the kerning gives it that careful, controlled feeling that Webstarian mentioned. It's hard to teach someone how to appreciate art in this way. – TCDesigner Feb 7 '17 at 18:15
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    @TCDesigner True that. Not everyone understands this. So I think most important thing is to discuss the client requirements when we start the projects and follow that blueprint to make the design. – Mansi Feb 7 '17 at 22:41
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Shouldn't all brands have some kind of idea or concept behind their brand identity?

Sure.

The fallacy here is thinking that there is no concept or idea... There should of course always be an idea, a concept and clear rationalisations for every design decision you make. But that doesn't always have to come across obviously in a finished design. I'm sure a lot of thought, research, time and money went in to designing most simple designs that—to most people—look like a plain bit of type.

I sometimes struggle to think of how to justify this kind of design decision and to make clients realise why this might be the outcome of the money they have spent.

That is an incredibly important part of being a designer. I studied graphic design years after I began working as a freelance designer and whilst most were there wanting to learn Quark or Illustrator, learning to work through a process and rationalise and externalise my design decisions was the single most important thing I learnt.

The one piece of advice I can give is not to try and arbitrarily rationalise a decision after the fact. Don't try attaching an idea to an already completed design. The design should be the result of a process and—as you said—an idea and a concept. Justifying your design is then simply explaining your idea and your process. And if there isn't one—be honest; "It looks good" may just be a valid justification.

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How you approach a particular design brief really depends on the brief itself. A good brief should tell you about the background, objectives, target audience, qualities the brand wishes to convey and lead you into studying the competitive landscape of the relevant industry sector.

How competing brands have chosen to look is often based on the experience of what works best in that sector. This doesn't mean you can't break the mould. But understanding the market as completely as possible is your first step towards producing a design that does.

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