Another example of minimalism is a new McDonald’s billboard campaign from Canadian agency Cossette, featuring cut-outs of the golden arches logo, used to indicate highway off-ramps or approaching turns, and simple type directions on a red ground. The arches are so ingrained in public memory, a tiny swath of the curve, plus the brand colors, serve as a visual shortcut for the fast-food eatery.
Minimalist, But Steeped in Heritage
My first reaction on seeing the Globe’s new circle logo was: “Oh great—another minimalist [lazy] logo design. Can’t wait to see the snark on social media.”
Yes, it is a circle. A plain red circle… at least, it is until you look a little closer. There are imperfections and irregularities to the edges. In fact, the logo that you will likely see most often is not the refined, downsized image shared in press releases, suitable for graphic reproduction at smaller sizes. The actual image is drawn from a paper print taken directly from a Globe relic—a slice of tree stump from the wood used to rebuild the playhouse in the 16th century. The theatre was described in the prologue to “Henry V” as “this wooden O,” and the 20-sided polygon shape is based on the shape of the original theater. The more-detailed, graphic wood print made from this relic is what you now see in the Globe’s promotional materials—posters, brochures, online ads, etc.—and on a new website to launch later this year.
As with all redesigned logos, you have to live with them for a bit to decide if they really work for the organization they are intended to represent. The Globe’s new image definitely reflects the deep historical roots of the Globe Theater, and the organization’s commitment to continue that long tradition by serving inspiring work to their audiences. It is intended to inspire the people within the organization. Internal inspiration is an important goal for any organization, and that inspiration usually enhances the work they do and the audiences they reach.
Reductive Design and Perceived Value
Does reduction and simplification make nonsense of designer credentials? When a design becomes incredibly simple, questions are raised about the value of the designer in the process. (“That’s so simple, my 6-year-old could have made it.”) While the actual application of the design may redeem it, it sometimes seems to paying customers and the public at large (especially online critics) that the designer simply “phoned it in.”
Then there is the difficulty of trademarking simplistic images as logos. A new American Airlines logo has been twice rejected by the U.S. Copyright Office as being too simplistic to warrant copyright protection. We’re guessing USAToday didn’t even try to trademark their circle rebrand.