In a Creative Mornings Berlin video presentation, Erik Spiekermann, one of the great type designers of our time, discusses branding on screens. His approach in maximizing space on a small screen is insightful. From the video:
“Because it’s Futura it’s Volkswagen…obviously this is not the only screen and the more type you have, the more brand you have. This is all the space you have on this small screen, you’re not going to put the logo everywhere. Volkswagen is blue, if it were Audi it would have to be red. Not every car company has such an obvious color, but Volkswagen is blue and Futura.”
In another example, Spiekermann shows the old Redbull Radio app which used Helvetica and grey and white, “the generic Apple app” he explains. Spiekermann compares this to the newly design app which is “totally branded by the typeface” and the use of the color orange.
Colors, typography, and design elements can be powerful ways to communicate a brand. When a coworker mentioned to me that one design concept for a mobile app looked like a to-do list app he has seen, and he was exactly right. The inspiration came directly from the KoalCat’s app. The resulting design looked cool, but felt misplaced; it possessed too much design from its inspiration and not enough DNA from the client’s unique design style:
I remember a talk given by a Google branding executive years ago that described a test that the design team would give to products and companies. They would cover up the logo and test to see if the company who built the product could be identified (e.g., compare Google Maps, to Bing Maps, to MapQuest). Even without the logo, an application with good, consistent design is recognizable.
One of the most used apps in the world today has smartly evolved from a primitive design using lots of tabs, to a sleek, more usable design that leverages colors and design elements to brand it (no logo needed).
Today’s lesson: In app design (and beyond), by leveraging the power of design we can communicate the brand while simultaneously improving usability by making the best use of limited space.