brand nirvana » Good design is as little design as possible

Good design is as little design as possible

After meeting with an affiliate last week, I started pondering the notion of what makes design good, bad and indifferent.

A great brand identity or communication piece needs to be original and well educated, and I feel that there are specific characteristics to the design process which define a ‘good design’. In most cases, like art or architecture, good design is subjective. However there are a few key elements that ensure a design is ‘good’ and not garish or ready for the recycle bin prior to publication.

Aside from the basic principles of design, which can be found by entering a query in your favourite search engine, my minimalist design mandatories are.


Positive and negative space are essential in design and in most cases less is always more.

Minimalist design emphasises negative space and doesn’t crowd the art board, however there are times when the client’s needs outweigh the designer’s style and this discussion is a post in it’s own right.

Appreciation for typography:

Basic elements like kerning, tracking and leading, stand out like a sore thumb when they are blatantly overlooked. I often shake my head in dismay when I see a graphic designer publish work that is poorly kerned. There’s simply no excuse. Tsk tsk!


The typeface selected for a design says a lot about the brand, and can be a visual expression of brand values. A well executed, text based logo is a reflection of good minimalist design because other elements such as a brand mark or tag line can complicate simplicity and detract from stunning form.


A well resolved design will have the same impact in greyscale as well as colour. The psychology of colour is a well documented phenomenon, and has been discussed on this blog in the past. If you’re unfamiliar with colour psychology, a simple search will bring up thousands of results and infographics for your viewing pleasure.

Form & Function:

Although the term is traditionally used in architecture, industrial design and engineering, the form of a logo/brand identity is equally as important as its function. Form is the elements of a design project, and function is the end result. A perfect synergy if I ever saw one and both are necessary for good design to be executed. For example, there is no point having a 24 carat gold foiled, letterpress business card for a primary school as the audience does not match the investment in the end product.

Communicates brand values:

A brand identity is the pure expression of the brand’s values, in a subtle and visual form. I’m indulging in extreme cliches to illustrate this example… a Rhodes Scholar wouldn’t use Comic Sans as a typeface style in their application. Just as a heavy metal band wouldn’t use a soft, feminine, script typeface and pale pink colour palette for the cover of their record. Unless they were collaborating with Agent Provocateur on a new range of lingerie for ladies who love metal and selling this on Valentines Day?! That’s got you thinking hasn’t it?

In my humble opinion; good design is as little design as possible and expresses a brand’s personality, values, reputation and gains the audience respect that it deserves.

I constantly trawl Behance for examples of amazing design. Here’s a few I prepared earlier in a Style Guides Collection.