A concept is no less then a meta-definition of an idea that should be contained in the design. More often than not this concept is explicit and self-explanatory, but in many occasions this doesn’t happen.
Design as a discipline has been suffering for some years from a minor arts stigma. Because of this at some point designers started to feel a need to intellectualize their work as a way to justify it to clients who are in general used to judge things with measurable parameters.
The Bahamas logo, representing the islands.
While some designs are either explicit or understood in a subconscious level (nike, families ,Bahamas), some others rely totally on a spoken explanation.
In the real world, a design is not able to rely on the designer to explain itself and justify the reasons of its shapes and curves.
design is the art of speaking through codes that are shared by both the emitter and the receiver of the message, and this means that in order to “understand” a design, being a logo or any kind of image, the designer will have to rely on a certain level of visual culture from the viewer part.
Families and Amazon logos. Obvious association in the first, and the second showing that it has everything from A to Z.
Every time the message is passed it is re-interpreted, and this is done instantly, improvising on top of the viewer visual culture. But this goes only so far, beyond a certain point symbols will get too abstract and wont be understood. Usually this is the point where a designer will pull up an explanation to make it clear. But the designer wont be always there with the logo to explain it.
Thomson Reuters logo. (old versions on the left)
“The idea of the spiral, made of dots, leverages the equity of the Reuters dots. Conceptually each of the dots represents a point of data, so the story is that Thomson Reuters organizes the facts to give it shape and meaning. Even at rest the shape has a feeling of being alive and in motion, and supports the notion that ‘intelligent information is alive’.” from identityworks
This does not mean that design is done without meaning. There’s always a great deal of thought put on every object designed, but the focus has to be on how it will work rather than creating a story to justify itself.
in the core of any object or design, concept is always superfluous. Think about the best design machine in existence in our world, now let’s call nature. In nature every “design” has a porpoise and a function that is performed, but never a concept behind it. The thing is the end in itself. Nature is a series of fortunate accidents that were improved through the ages, there’s no concept behind the shape of a shell other than it being the best way to perform its task.
Minimalism is not only about shape, but also everything else.