Lee Coomber is creative director for Europe and Middle East for creative consultancy Lippincott. Here he tells us about simplicity in design, and how design builds a bond with a brand.
In a world that is ever more difficult to navigate, consumers are being constantly bombarded and confused with messages, content and products. The increasing levels of background noise means design needs to do two things better than ever before: be simple and be seductive.
Good designers understand simple. They realise the answer to our hectic and busy lives is to use neutral areas and reduce content. They utilise space and clarity of form to insert much appreciated breathing space into our days. Companies are also learning to communicate clearly and directly, curating their messages and products so they feel easy and accessible.
We can see this with brands like Google, which changed its familiar friendly serif logo to a simpler sans serif typeface, reducing its visual baggage. The difference between a page from eBay today and one from just three years ago is the equivalent of a modern hotel reception to granny’s junk-filled attic. Both look to quiet things down and allow people to think, choose and purchase in relative calm.
The shift towards simplification has occurred in almost every brand category. Airbnb is a traditional hotel crest with everything except the absolute essential stripped away. A British Gas bill is all about the number you owe, not a complex calculation of kilowatts. Apple’s operating system lost its fussy skeuomorphism in favour of a two-dimensional interface.
But while simple is the first ingredient for creating a stronger bond with a brand, it is not enough to win love. Road signs help to simplify, but you’ll never love a stop sign. To seduce, design needs to connect the rational with the visceral.
Design is to business what evolution is to nature, it enables brands to change and survive. For the most successful, you can’t distinguish the brand from the design language. Nike, Apple, Ikea, Google, Starbucks, and pretty much all luxury brands, rely on a design language that encompasses the entire consumer experience. And just like nature, their design language is constantly evolving.
In this world of growing choice, designers need to work harder than ever to differentiate and create desire. And while brand should lead the design, it is ultimately the design itself that we admire and fall in love with. Far from resenting brand constraints, designers should embrace and use them as the springboard to dive into a palette of colour, form and behavioural metaphor to ensure that people recognise ‘this’ brand’s vocabulary.
People can perceive and respond to the smallest nuances – the difference between Diesel and Levi’s stitching, between the curves of cars, the bevel of a phone. We perceive it and associate the brand’s values with those design gestures in the same way we would have once associated the weak member of the herd or the difference between edible and poisonous fruits.
As humans, we want to show what we believe in, we want to show our identity. Design helps us do this, by defining the brands we embrace. It brings back the seduction, the magic and the joy. And it is within these moments of emotional connection that our bonds with brands are born.