What is ‘Occam’s Razor’?
A principle best known for its explanation rather than it’s name. To put it simply, This is the law of “The simplest explanation is usually the correct one“. Or, to put it another way, “Don’t think Zebra when you hear hoof beats. It’s much more likely to be horses.“
The term is mostly used for scientific and philosophical thesis to eradicate time consuming assumption when trying to find a solution to a simple problem. In design we sometimes call this “Thinking outside of the box” but is it always the correct way of looking at a problem such as logo design?
Great logo design is not always the result of hours, days or even months worth of work. A great talent can immediately identify and manipulate an obvious play on words or symbolic cross over. Art and design are always put together as one but in reality these terms are very different. Design serves a purpose, to create an aesthetic tool in the ability to direct, sell or promote trust in a business, product or service. Art in itself has no purpose. It may be sold or commissioned but in essence is the product of the artists mind at play.
With logo design we strive to create not only a valuable selling tool for the client but we also test our talent on an artistic level. Scrutiny comes from fast recognition, relevance and suitability for the product it promotes. We look deeply to try and create a brand mark to make sure a product or company is set aside and above from competition and always stands out from a crowd. But does it really need to be that complicated and pressured?
Lets look at some of the worlds most easily identified logo designs:
With the exception of BMW (the blue and white checked circle representing the propellers of an aircraft which is where they started engineering before cars) Each logo has no reference to fizzy drinks, mobile phones, cars, computing or sports.
Apple’s iconic logo has had some interesting stories created behind it. For years it has been rumored that Apple’s iconic logo, a stylized, solid apple missing a bite on one side, was inspired by circumstances surrounding the death of Alan Turing, the groundbreaking mathematician and computer scientist who committed suicide by eating a cyanide-laced apple in 1954.
Not so, says the man who actually created the logo, graphic designer Rob Janoff, who laughs it off as “a wonderful urban legend.” The concept was purely visual in inspiration, he says, with the bite taken out only to provide scale so the apple wouldn’t be mistaken for a cherry. [Sourced]
All of these logos share one thing in common. Think of yourself as an alien that has never before stepped foot on this planet. Would you know what these companies are famous for producing by just looking at the logo? These are just a few of the most famous brands that are easily recognised across the world. But why do we recognise them? The answer is simple. Product merit! Their services and produce have spoken for them. There logos have branded their merchandise from humble beginnings to present day prosperity and now we know them all too well.
This is where the branding of today becomes so pressurised. Clients feel they need to play ‘Catch up’ with the leading brands. Clients constantly want their brand to be instantly recognisable for what they do from the word go. This isn’t necessarily a bad principle to try to achieve but trying too hard to get ahead can have consequences to both art and design as you will see from the next few logos:
As you can see there can be some unintended symbolism as well as bad composition when trying too hard to promote your product or service. The moral of the story here is to not allow your logo to sell your product but to simply brand you. Trying to be too clever can backfire and turn a company into a joke. Occam’s Razor should be employed in the instance that a logo doesn’t have to portray your exact business model, mission statement or product but is there to remind you that a brand will take care of itself if the service is worthy of recognition. A logo is a simple brand mark which should not pigeon hole a business or subtract from it’s primary purpose as a device for identity.
There will always be talented designers who can exploit a logo into saying what the client wants but subtly and without suggestion to other assumptions as to a company’s purpose but it is always good practice to not go looking for something that is not there. So keep it simple, clever only when possible, neat and quick and never over thought. This is the key to great logo design.