How to avoid “over-designing”

What is meant by over-designing?

It was Albert Einstein who said “Make things as simple as possible but no simpler”, and this statement rings pertinently true for graphic design. Since the purpose of graphic design is to communicate a message visually, people need to be able to ‘get it’ instantly.

Across all disciplines of graphic design; logo, web, print… Communication is at the heart of everything, so it’s essential that the ideas we communicate are functional, visually engaging and aesthetically pleasing. Yet there are many examples of visual communication that fail because either:

  • they take too long to read
  • they don’t make sense
  • they contain too many elements, which end up fighting for the same space

These can all be a result of over-designing, which is effectively adding unnecessary elements or ideas to something to the point where these elements detract from the intended message. It’s kind of like making a soup with too many ingredients; an unnecessary amount of work goes in, and the end result has no distinct flavour…!

The importance of not over-designing a logo

In most cases the first thing you remember about a brand is the logo, whether that be through packaging, business cards, website etc… So a striking, memorable, and visually digestible logo is vital. And since the logo needs to represent the brand, there are two forms of representation you may want to consider: literal and abstract.

Literal representation logos

Literal representation logos offer a literal representation of the brand, for example Apple. The Apple logo is an apple; there are no two ways about it, so the message is communicated literally, directly, with very little room for misinterpretation.

Granted, an apple has nothing to do with computers or smartphones so from this perspective it can be considered abstract, but in terms of representing a brand name that is ‘Apple’, it’s as literal as you can get.

Abstract representation logos

Abstract representation logos offer an abstract representation of the brand, for example the Nike Swoosh which doesn’t paint a literal picture, it simply suggests ideas, for example Speed, Dynamism, Flight, Energy…

The secret to a successful logo, whether literal or abstract, is simplicity and subtlety, with nothing forced! Too often we see examples of logos that try to tell way too much of a story of a business, that they end up not telling any story at all.

The importance of not over-designing a website

When considering the design of your website, it is important to keep these same values in mind. We believe the primary function of a website is to communicate your business proposition, for example the products or services you offer. And it’s just as easy to over-think the design of a website as it is the design of a logo.

At Whoop Creative we often put function before form, because we believe that putting loads of ‘bells and whistles’ in place is just unnecessary noise if they don’t have a purpose. Once the function is defined, the form can be considered. As the great William Morris of the Arts & Crafts Movement put it, “form follows function”.

Sure, the idea of having a website with off the wall features that nobody has ever seen before might sound exciting, but if there’s no rationale behind a visual the novelty will wear off very quickly and your visitors will lose interest. Furthermore, people are becoming more and more used to certain user experience patterns in web design, so breaking the mould just for the sake of it may leave your visitors confused…

Branding Services

As Creative Director, Darren oversees all of Whoop Creative's design output, ensuring a consistently high standard across all the projects we undertake for our fantastic clients. He is an expert in branding and corporate identity, design for print, design for digital media, advertising and marketing. Enthusiastic and organised, Darren has extensive industry experience and aims for perfection in every project he undertakes.