“Blanding” – Why So Many Brands are Simplifying Their Look

We’ve all heard the saying “less is more”. When you make something simpler and more straightforward, you often make it much more effective. Removing superfluous steps or details from – well, anything – often creates something much more streamlined and valuable than your “first draft”.

French writer Antoine de Saint Exupéry put it perfectly:

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

In graphic design – as with other disciplines with artistic roots – this pursuit of simplicity is a hot topic at the moment. Google, Spotify, Microsoft, and countless other huge, global brands are simplifying their logos and brand visuals; favouring plain typefaces, uncluttered shapes, and harmonised – often simple – colour palettes in a movement that’s being called “blanding”.

A brand’s sole purpose is to stand out, of course, so why are all of these brands spending time and energy on simplifying their look in the same way as everyone else? Let’s investigate.

What is Blanding?

Blanding is a term that has been coined to describe the trend of moving away from decorated typefaces, complex colour schemes, and intricate shapes in favour of a simplified, sleek, yet bold look.

So what does blanding look like in practice? One of the earliest, nationally visible examples of blanding is the BBC’s 1997 rebrand which established the logo we all know today – with each letter shown in a square. They removed the RGB coloured bars introduced in the 80s and returned the brand to a more monochrome, blocky aesthetic – putting a modern spin on their original black and while logo from yesteryear.

A more recent example of blanding is Google’s 2015 revamp of their logo, moving to a round sans-serif font for the first time since the search engine became a global phenomenon.

The proliferation of blanding is particularly noticeable in the fashion world, with established luxury brands like Burberry, Yves Saint Laurent, and Balmain moving away from decorative serifs towards stark, monochrome, sans-serif wordmarks.

Why is Blanding Such a Popular Trend?

Defining blanding is the easy part. It’s much harder to pinpoint why this trend is happening and why these simplified brand graphics resound so strongly with mainstream B2B and B2C audiences.

But knowing what we know about the marketing landscape, the team here at OLCO Design can hazard a few informed guesses.

Simple Logos Fit a Noisy Life

Like it or not, the world is becoming a very noisy place. With ever-present advertising, companies constantly vying for your attention, and 24-hour rolling news cycles, what we’d have considered sensory overload a few short decades ago has now become the norm.

When up against this constant, overwhelming chatter, our minds crave one thing – simplicity. The neutral, bold clarity of blanding cuts through the noise of modern life – providing instant, stark recognisability in an increasingly complex world.

Simplicity Works Well on Smaller Screens

And on the subject of our media-filled lives, we move on to arguably one of the main culprits – our smartphones.

Clean, lines and flat shapes lose little in the way of definition when scaled down to the sizes needed to display nicely on a mobile-optimised website or within an app. It’s easier to pick out and recognise a clear, bold logo on a small mobile screen than an intricate design with fine lines, complex shapes, and subtle colour schemes – at least without zooming in. You’ve effectively got a smaller amount of pixels to portray your brand reliably, so bolder, less complex graphics understandably rule the roost.

As our interaction with technology leans more and more towards app-focused interactions and wearable tech, many digitally oriented brands are considering a starker, unembellished visual approach to allow for recognisable app icons and assets. Pairing a gallant colour pallette with a bold, minimalist logo or character-mark may provide the key to instant digital recognisability.

Minimalist Graphics Are More Versatile

When a brand’s core graphics rely on intricate details and convoluted colour schemes, they become much less versatile – and often much less effective too. Digitally, they may look great, but may not work quite as well in print, when reduced in size, or if embroidered on garments.

However, less complex graphics with crisp colour schemes fare much better across both digital and print applications when scaled up or down in size. Their brand identity still shines forth from first glance, even on a miniscule scale (think USB flash drives, pens, email signatures, and favicons!).

Clear, Versatile Design Provides a Great Impression

On the surface, basic, uncomplicated design may appear low-effort and apathetic, but in reality the opposite is usually true. When a logo is instantly recognisable, truly versatile, and fully digital-ready, it can make a brand appear authentic and established rather than a “scrappy” startup with a loosely constructed brand identity.

As we can see from the proliferation of blanding in the world of designer fashion goods, incorporating a stark, “no-frills” look can actually make a brand chic, modern, and on-trend. Rather than hanging their hats on the arguably outdated view that “serifs just look classier”, fashion houses are moving towards undecorated, bold, yet effortlessly stylish brand looks – much like the ones they present on the catwalk.

Simple Brands are Easier to Apply Consistently

We are all marketed to so much these days that the average consumer has become alarmingly savvy – especially online. An unevenly cropped logo here, a poorly colour-matched social media graphic there, or a slightly outdated website is likely to turn a certain percentage of the public away.

As we’ve discussed here on the blog before, brand consistency is arguably the most important part of branding. Intricate shapes, indistinct colour schemes, and decorated typefaces often lead to long and complicated brand guidelines. And when a brand’s guiding documentation is extensive and drawn-out, it’s far easier to represent that brand inconsistently over time. Whether you’re creating assets yourself with tools like Canva, delegating to a member of your team, or outsourcing to a graphic design agency, there’s simply more to be lost in translation when dealing with a more intricate brand style.

However when you’re dealing with uncomplicated design, well-harmonised colour palettes, and undecorated font families, less time and effort needs to be spent getting each deliverable to look “just right”. Simplicity helps to ensure that your brand is brought to life reliably and in the best way possible each and every time.

So if you’re looking to give your brand a fresh, new look, then get in touch with the team at OLCO Design. We get to know your company inside-out to create a brand identity that communicates your entire ethos at a glance. Drop us a line to book a totally free, no obligation consultation session.

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