“Modern” is the most requested logo trait by businesses and startups who use Branding Compass. They want their image to reflect current tastes, styles, or even values. This is particularly important for businesses that are driven by trends—such as fashion or home goods—or that are constantly innovating—such as technology startups.
But modern is much more than a synonym for “new”. It’s a design approach that incorporates many distinct characteristics.
What is modern design style?
When people describe a design as modern, they usually mean up-to-date. The design feels current or contemporary.
‘Modern design’ technically refers to a specific period of European design from the early to mid-1900s, but it’s more likely that you are looking for ‘contemporary’ design when you use the word modern.
Modern design gained popularity in Germany, Scandinavia, Switzerland, and the U.S. and flourished from the 1930s through the 1970s. Following trends in architecture, graphic design from this historical period was categorized by a lack of ornamental decoration and clean, straight lines. Sans serif type became more dominant at that time. While some of these styles still are in use today, looking at posters and decor from that time, you can see how our tastes have continued to evolve.
Design, much like fashion, is always slowly changing. When you look at a photo, you can tell if it is current or old by looking at how the people dress, how they style their hair and features of their surroundings. We learn to recognize these subtle details, even if we don’t notice them as they are changing over time.
Similarly, there are trends in graphic design such as the style of font, certain shades of color, even shapes, gradations, patterns or other stylistic details that become more popular at certain times.
The design style at any given time that feels contemporary or trendy is often called modern. When you look at a logo from the 70s, 80s or 90s, the creator may have been trying to create a modern logo design, but now it feels old and out of style.
Modern logo design inspiration
To create a contemporary, modern logo design, you need to keep tabs on graphic styles. You can look for inspiration in areas that tend to lead and create trends.
Fashion is often out front with design trends. And most fashion brands use graphic design on their logos, their tags, their website, and their social media. Fashion is a great source of inspiration for modern design.
Decor and housewares are also very driven by design trends. If you look at the home decor section of Target, Wayfair, or West Elm you can see the colors, shapes, and patterns that have moved to the mainstream.
Finally, successful businesses, especially highly visible startups, can give you a good idea about corporate branding trends. If a hot startup gets a lot of attention from investors and the media, the style of their branding is often emulated and copied by other businesses in an attempt to mimic the strengths of the successful company.
How to create a modern logo design
In general, modern design has a clean, simple, and minimalist look to it.
Modern font styles tend to be sans serif, rather than serif typefaces. Sans serif fonts lack the small detail on the end of the lines, which give them clean, solid lines. Bold fonts are much more readable in sans serif so they work well for logos.
However, slab serifs—serif fonts that have heavy more angular decorations at the end—are popular, too. Slab serifs are still bold and clean, but can feel a less spare than a sans serif choice.
Modern colors are frequently bright and bold. Modern logo designs avoid colors that feel out of date. No pastels like your grandmother would like. No traditional and heavy colors like navy blue, dark green, or maroon. However, modern brands can put a new spin on an old color.
How to create a modern brand design
After you’ve created your modern logo design, you’ll want to continue building your brand with other visuals. You can create a modern brand design, by thinking about the design of your website, social media posts, printed marketing materials, signs, packaging, etc.
Modern design uses white space very carefully. Modern design can be both quiet or bold, but it uses design precisely. Modern brands understand the importance of professional design and it shows.
To create a modern-looking brand, avoid the following design elements that feel out of date (but probably felt really modern a few years ago). Remember, to look beyond your logo design, there are other elements that go into building your whole brand identity.
- Some gradients. Note: some gradients have evolved and can look very contemporary!
- Bevel and emboss
- Overdone drop shadows
- Cheesy stock photos
Is a modern logo a good fit for your brand?
Many companies and products want to look up-to-date. Software companies and other innovative products definitely want to ensure that their brand looks contemporary. However, if you want to create a long-lasting, timeless brand image make sure you note what visual trends feel new, without being overly trendy.