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Developing Brand Aesthetic: Minimalism vs. Maximalism

Updated: May 30

Image of pink headphones on a two-toned blue and pink background, representing elements of brand aesthetic.

Branding is an essential aspect of any business, and it plays a crucial role in how customers perceive and interact with a company's products or services. In the marketing world, there’s a popular and never-ending (seems like that anyways) debate on whether minimalist or maximalist brands have a stronger pull in the market.

These are two very different approaches to branding, but which approach is better? Which approach generally creates more positive feedback for brands?

In our humble opinion as marketers, we don’t think one is better than the other. We think your brand’s messaging, coupled with your brand’s target audience, sets the tone for how you visually portray your product.

“Looking at design and branding trends that your target audience is drawn to is smart and proactive, not to mention exciting!”- Amanda, Marketing and Design

^This is Amanda from the EWISE team. She’ll be adding her two cents on the minimalism vs. maximalism discussion!

The Two Branding Aesthetics: Minimalism and Maximalism

First and foremost, let’s break down what minimalism and maximalism encompass.

Minimalism in Branding

Minimalism refers to the use of simple, clean, and uncluttered design elements. This approach emphasizes simplicity and functionality, and it often uses a limited color palette, simple typography, and minimal imagery. Minimalist branding is often associated with modern and sleek design, and it is particularly popular among companies in the technology and luxury sectors.

One of the main advantages of minimalism in branding is that it allows a company to communicate its message clearly and effectively. By using a simple and uncluttered design, a company can focus on its core message and avoid overwhelming customers with too much information. This can make it easier for customers to understand and remember the brand, which can lead to increased customer loyalty and engagement.

Maximalism in Branding

Image of colorful wall art, demonstrating a maximalism branding aesthetic.

Maximalism refers to the use of bold, colorful, and expressive design elements. This approach emphasizes creativity and self-expression, and it often uses a wide range of colors, intricate typography, and elaborate imagery. Maximalist branding is often associated with vintage and retro design, and it is particularly popular among companies in the fashion, art, and entertainment sectors.

One of the main advantages of maximalism in branding is that it allows a company to stand out and be noticed in a crowded marketplace. By using bold and colorful design, a company can make a strong visual impact and attract attention. This can help to increase brand awareness and engagement among customers.

How Target Audiences Play a Role in Brand Aesthetic

When you’re thinking about how you want to visually portray your brand (e.g., logo, color palette, etc.) you need to think about a very important component of your brand: your target audience.

Your target audience should be resembled in your company’s brand development, helping your audience to feel like they are represented in your brand identity. The best brands (regardless of whether they have a minimalist or maximalist aesthetic) look, feel, and talk like their audience.

Gen Z is Drawn to Maximalism

In analyzing the trends, though, we’ve found that generational differences may influence brand aesthetics. For many years, brand designers have seemed to champion the phrase “less is more.” We’ve seen this with well-established brands like Starbucks and Nike, as these brands have continuously simplified their look over the years. However, as Generation Z has begun influencing the market, brands debuting in recent years are starting to shift to a more maximalist aesthetic.

“Defaulting to minimalism on every project might have been the style in recent years, but we need to recognize the demographics who are drawn to brand elements that embody vibrant aesthetics.”

An image of a girl in a red beret posing with expressive wall art, representing how Gen Z seems to be attracted to maximalism.

Though minimalist brands tend to resonate more with older generations, such as Baby Boomers and Gen X, the up-and-coming consumers in Gen Z seem to express interest in brands that are bold, colorful, and expressive.

Interestingly, Gen Z seems to prefer maximalism, but with a twist. This generation is known to have a deep interest in nostalgia. Why do you think “Stranger Things” is so big, and why do you think bell bottom jeans have come back?

“From a design standpoint, having a target audience who demands something exciting and different is a blessing to creatives, yearning to stretch their design muscles.”

As Gen Z has become influential in the consumer market, we’ve seen the generation draw inspiration from the 70s and 80s era, which is known for its maximalist aesthetic. Companies that incorporate elements from the 70s era in their branding, such as bold color palettes, retro typography, and vintage imagery, can appeal to Gen Z's sense of nostalgia and their preference for maximalism. Here are some maximalist brands that really capture their Gen Z audience:

Fun fact: MADAM by Madam C.J. Walker actually rebranded to reach Gen Z.

Develop Your Brand’s Since of Style and Engage with Your Target Audience

It’s completely normal (and in some ways expected) for a brand to adapt to better reach and connect with its target audience.

“Brand aesthetics almost need to be like a pendulum, able to swing back and forth between minimalism and maximalism as trends change. Adaptability and research are key!”

Whether your company is in need of new messaging or a push toward a new brand aesthetic, brand development can mark exciting change and growth.

Ready to reimagine your corporate identity? Check out our brand development services or better yet- contact us!


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