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During the drive to my rustic Mountain Maryland hometown, where I was spending December for the holiday season, I dreaded that the whole month would grow listless and old, invariably siphoning the culture from me with every waking minute. After all, I was accustomed to the streamlined, invigorating lifestyle of New York City. But now, on a recent walk here, something magical happened: I spotted a gray building with a white sign with a black circle on it. Huzzah! Sweet relief! Minimalist branding had made it to my humble, Appalachian town!

The building’s sign was perfect! And I instantly found solace in it. Whatever the establishment was, I had zero inkling. Whatever the black circle represented, I was stirred to find out.

What could the circle mean? Unity, vitality, connection? Not only was the design an example of “less is more,” it was also: “less is everything.” The brand image was genius in its potential applications, a boundlessness of meaning, as it were. Actually, could the iconography in itself mean “boundlessness?” Did it have something to do with going above and beyond to deliver whatever service the brand ultimately delivers? Perhaps it’s a gentle allusion to the Flag of Japan, which conjures a certain nationalistic allegiance and represents the sun, a very relatable star. Or perhaps the branding has a sort of meta-infinite nature, critiquing brands themselves, while also being one. I might be getting ahead of myself here. But, hey, I like semiotics. Sue me! It’s something I’ve sort of brought home with me having lived in such a city as New York City.

But by the same token, I also didn’t need to have all the answers. And there was something beautiful in that. Very self-aware and good of me to admit that about myself here! That gray building with that white sign with that black circle on it had been there for who knows how long, providing whatever services it provides, for whatever cost, for whatever kind of people need that service, and they were doing just fine. And for all I knew, I wasn’t in need of that unknown service either, so why would I need to know what said service is? I was intrigued, sure, but there’s allure in mystery. There’s beauty in not knowing the point of a business. And that reminded me of the city… New York City, to be exact. I missed that.

As I passed by that gray building with that white sign with that black circle on it, the next thing I saw was a local farmer’s market, which I couldn’t help but think would have benefited greatly from a similar minimal logo as that black circle. I didn’t have enough time to parse through all of the haphazardly handwritten farm offerings on their cumbersome-looking sign. I would have liked something sleeker, more manageable, more distinct but with less personality (which, by proxy, would allow me to project my own personality onto it). Something so vague that I could focus on the product itself, instead of the people that make that product; and the practices, questionable or not, which may or may not go into making said product.

Perhaps a Kandinsky-esque illustration of a vegetable such as an ear of corn would have sufficed? A little yellow, and a little green. Nothing more, only l e s s.


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