Cover photograph by: Alex Rainer

Reductionism in logo design: Rethinking the WordPress logo

Surely you’ve noticed how some shopkeepers or restauranteurs would deck their windows out with intense, overstimulating, attention-grabbing decorations; the RGB-flashing LED strip-lining, the huge SALE signs, the clutter of products on display.

While all of these tools serve to grab someone’s attention for a split moment, they don’t necessarily do a good job at hanging onto it because all of these devices are essentially empty. The LED strips don’t say anything about your brand, while the sheer amount of products on display dilutes the observer’s focus.

The same goes for digital design. Brands and their websites/social media profiles have often given into the temptation of presenting as much of their content as condensed as possible, fearing that their visitors might click away too quickly in the age of “bounce rates” and ultra-short attention-spans. But I think they are just exacerbating the problem. It’s obviously very cliché, but the statement “less is more” has never been more important when designing brands.

I would go further and say that brands should absolutely shave off every millimetre of non-essential design in order to drive home their brand identity. Even brands that have a high degree of recognisability should think hard about updating and reducing their brands to the essential.

Case-study: The WordPress logo

To illustrate my point, I would challenge the very well established and much loved WordPress brand. First of all, this is not slander – I have massive respect for the original logo designers. They contributed a considerable part to this iconic brand’s success.

With its famous swooshing “W”, the recognizable logo has been around for more than a decade; however, it still has some issues.

The good

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The fundamental shape of the W – It’s simple, unique, and super recognisable and captures the essence of the “press” with its stamp-like shape. Photographer: Fikret tozak

The bad

There’s something weird going on with soft and hard edges.

1. The logo’s unique element, the swoosh, is out on the side, and not very noticeable.
2. The top of the W’s “bars” are curved, which would be fine, but it doesn’t really fit the hard lines of the rest of the W’s body.

The ugly

The W icon font is different from the text, but they are both serif fonts – that’s a clashing no-no for me.

My attempt

My aim in this re-design is to show that there’s a beautiful logo in there. By reducing the WordPress logo to its essential elements, we can retain a high level of recognisability while trimming the unnecessary.

The font needs to be harmonized, but I also felt that it would be good to choose a softer, more curved font that fits the W‘s swooshing right side better. I also left out the extra W icon logo when presenting the full text.

As for the Stamp Icon, I’ve decided to preserve it nearly entirely because it captures the essence of the brand well.

Now that the font is the same for the icon as well as the text, there is more harmony between the two.

1. I’ve made the letter width of the fat part a little slimmer to give the stamp a little more negative space, as I feel that it’s a bit cramped and uncomfortable.
2. The curves of the letter also fit better with the famous swoosh now.
3. The focus of the W icon’s should be drawn to the unique element, which is the swoosh on the right side. By shifting the circular frame and exposing the swoosh, the logo gets a fresher look.

This is the age of reductionism…

…has definitely arrived and logo design is rightly heading back in that direction. The biggest challenge with the minimalistic design is to still keep it differentiated from the crowd – that’s why I prefer the term reductionism. It’s all about reducing toward the essential, rather than just being minimal out of principal. I hope that WordPress and other awesome companies feel confident enough to make these slight but essential changes to their logos.

I’m always on the lookout for the next challenge so feel free to send me your logo or any logos that you think could use a reductionist re-design! 🙂

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Vanja Ivancevic

Vanja Ivancevic

Currently checking out Berlin as a nomad location, while travelling with corona-induced anxiety.