Brand Identity – MISS before KISS – Why simplicity is the key.

Make it simple stupid before KISS

It really does pay to have a simple brand identity, especially in today’s digital world.

Everybody knows the old ‘KISS’ acronym – ‘Keep it simple, stupid’. But before we can do that we need to ‘MISS’ – Make it Simple.

Now is a good time to revisit your brand identity design and reconsider how it can be stripped down to the essentials.

If you’re commissioning a new identity – then bear these principles in mind.

So, why is it so timely to be considering this?

Big brands have been evolving their identities for some time. The results we see are a rationalisation to simple visual concepts with maximum recognition.

A massive statement was made recently by Mastercard who have even gone so far as to move to a ‘nameless’ logo developed by Pentagram’s partner, Michael Bierut.

“Raja Rajamannar, Mastercard’s chief marketing and communication officer, also seems pretty excited about the visual update, noting that “Reinvention in the digital age calls for modern simplicity.” Raja claims that as “80 per cent” of people are able to “spontaneously” recognise the brand’s (admittedly) iconic interlocking circles without the word Mastercard nestled between them, and in turn the circles could happily stand on their own.”

Other major players have been stripping away the frills for years and investing in symbols as their key brand assets – Apple and Nike, instantly spring to mind. You can add McDonalds, Shell and many others to the list.

Okay, for us lesser mortals we may not feel we have sufficient recognition to drop our name altogether (even Mastercard have retained theirs for some applications). However, the fact is that our brains process pictures and images far faster than they read words. So, it’s the simple images and shapes, together with colour schemes, that people register and remember.

This is especially true in a digital world. We scroll pages and flip through posts so fast that our identities have only a fraction of a second to impact upon the viewer.

Often our logo or symbol will be viewed on a cramped 300 pixel wide phone screen.

Social media brings another consideration – the profile picture that appears on our posts and the top of pages – what shape is it?  Right, square or a circle – same width as its depth. Instagram is also built around a square format. Symbols that fit this format are going to have a flying start. Today it’s cool to be square.

How do we do we apply the principles of MISS to our brand identity?

  • Evolution not Revolution – if your brand has been around for a while it almost certainly has some valuable visual content. The trick is to select only the essential elements, refine and strengthen them and make them unmistakably ‘yours’. Build on those key shapes and symbols.
  • Be a brutal pruner – look at every element in your identity. Is it helping? Does it have a purpose? If not – can it go? Almost certainly ‘Yes’.
  • Don’t be scared of the very simple – Mastercard’s symbol is just two discs. Bass Ale has used the simple red triangle logo since 1876, when the logo became the first registered trademark ever issued by the British government.
  • Be a critical client. If you have a new business or are having a brand re-designed, make a very precise assessment of any design suggestions. Don’t just go for a pretty or clever design – ask yourself, is it strong, clear and unambiguous. Consider how it will work at all sizes – on a phone screen – competing against other posts – against different backgrounds. How will it work in a round or square profile pic.
  • Consider the competition. Collect a selection of competitors’ brand identities and logos – place yours amongst them – how does it stand up?


Once you’ve made it simple – keep it simple. Those famous brand identities became stronger and more memorable by being consistently applied. Document your visual standards and be tough in ensuring their application is cast iron. Simples.


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Ian West
dangerous ideas

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