Is Less Really More?

When to use less or more when tackling your marketing and advertising!

By: Michael K. Bigos (Consultant: Design, Brand Identity, Marketing, UX/UI)

It’s often repeated. You’ve heard it at company parties, family gatherings and public events.  You know, it’s when you come into contact with an experience so “interesting”, you almost automatically say “you know, sometimes less is more.”  Despite the seemingly obvious attempt of a “designer” to inspire you and despite the fact that, you know you are not even close to being a “designer”, you still innately seem to know what looks good and what doesn’t.  This is no secret of course.  Many psychologists have enlightened us by explaining the need for our brains to make sense of our world and sometimes, this means we are subconsciously putting things into balance or aesthetically pleasing compositions without much effort or desire to.  Leaders in the design industry have set the tone for both exquisite and practical aesthetics. Companies like Apple, Nike, and BMW have been leading the marketplace in design in their own regard.  They utilize aspects of design which communicate ideas, tones, and sensory-things without saying a word. It’s not by accident and it’s not happenstance.  It’s carefully thought out and intentionally positioned to their target audiences.

When less isn’t more.

I was driving to my office one morning and I saw this pickup truck in front of me.  Because I am a designer, I often find myself looking around while at traffic lights, noticing varied forms of branding and graphic design.  This particular morning a pickup truck had two variations of stickers on his tailgate which served as his “advertising” of his lawn care business.  I took a picture of this truck as it drove off because, like most of you, I immediately thought, “this time, less is NOT more.”  I was prompted to offer any professional advice or perspective I have on this topic to all of you out there who have struggled to decide when to use less to say more or, more to say more in your business advertisement. Business owners often fall short of knowing what or how to advertise themselves. Thus, falling short of their potential to earn a great profit and grow their business.

As stated, this comes naturally.  What doesn’t come as natural is the ability to determine when to use less or, when to incorporate more when looking to market yourself, product or services.  As a brand designer, I have had many conversations with clients where I have either said it myself or, the client has made their preferences known by telling me “less is more” when consulting them.  The truth is, there is no real formula; and because design and “art” is subjective to the viewer, who can truly be a final authority on this subject?  YOU simply want or better yet, NEED to know when to use less or when to use more.  More importantly, why lean one way or the other?

How Do You Know?

I’d recommend using your “gut” to help you determine the answer.  There is no shortage of testimonies where someone just felt good about their decision.  Despite any advice I personally can and will offer up, there is no replacement for an ole’ gut feeling. Now, because some of you out there may not feel as comfortable with your gut because well, maybe you suffer from IBS or indigestion, reflex or some other unfortunate condition, I will advise you to rely on your initial reaction to a thing.  I firmly believe there are only three viable reactions to design; 1) Yes. 2) No. 3) WOW!   Naturally, “wow” is the one to aim for.  Achieving the wow factor in your personal marketing materials is not as challenging as you may think.  You not only can have your very own WOW-experience, you can feel confident that you have the sweet-spot of less being more and more being more.  And here are four areas to consider to help you…

1.  Don’t ‘Overdose’ On Content.

When you are planning your next advertisement, it’s important to plan out how a particular piece of media will tie into others you may decide to promote in the future. Or, if it will stand alone.  I’ve had clients who thought they needed to communicate all of their value propositions onto one visual piece because that was their very first attempt to market themselves.  As soon as I recommended against that idea, their responses oftentimes was, “how are they going to know…?”  My answer was, “they won’t.”  But it’s O.K.  Ideally, you want to try to have your design communicate what is initially important about your product or service.  Maybe it’s what sets you apart from your competitors? Maybe it’s some special feature(s) of your product?  What you are trying to do is generate leads in efforts to convert those leads into customers.  Leaving a bit of intrigue with your marketing piece is encouraged.  Plus, it gives you an opportunity to up sell yourself, services or product.

2.  Be Specific.

Simply put, get to the point in your overall layout/design.  Like most of us in the world, your customers are busy people, being distracted at nearly every turn with someone else’s “ideas” and next big thing.  SO, if your promotional ad has lots of information (which you feel is utterly important) on it, it may stand the chance of not being recognized at all.  A good design has a “flow” to it which lends itself to the natural course of a readers eyes as they navigate the “thing” you are advertising. Whether it’s a commercial, email ad or a billboard, carefully placing content, words, and images is vital to getting noticed or being forgotten. Be specific. Be precise. Be intentional in what you say, show and the call to action (CTA) you desire from your intended audience. The faster they can take in the information you are communicating, the quicker they can decide what to do with that information. If your ad is a good ad, they can decide rather quickly to buy, share or refer your product or service.

3.  Stay In Your “Lane.”

Did you just clutch your pearls? Or, did you sit back in your chair just then? Breath easy my dear friend.  This is the part when I ask you to try to NOT be the designer.  It’s your business and possibly your “baby”, I know.  However, a sure-fire way to fall short of your marketing goals is to assume the role of “art director.”  It’s your responsibility to offer the information which will aide your designer in being the unicorn they are for your project.  It’s their responsibility to design.  Be mindful and as often as you have to, remind yourself that, you too are a subject matter expert (SME) in your industry or field. Likewise, you have sought out a complimentary SME to assist your marketing goals. In this case, a designer.  As much as you may want to sit next to the designer or peer over their shoulder during the design-phase of your project, you must not give in to this urge.  If you have done your research and if you have conversed with your designer prior to you initiating your project, you should have a level of trust they can deliver the goods. If you don’t, that’s an entirely different subject matter.  But, if you trusted them enough to work with them, you have to trust their process, creativity, and ultimately their professional advise.  It’s O.K. and encouraged to challenge your designer in context. Likewise, if you are uncertain about something, your best bet is to ask questions.  However, if your angle is more geared to wanting to affect the design process or undermine your designer, you may find yourself frustrated with the project as well as with them.  And who really wants that?   Trust, transparency, collaboration, and communication are keys to successful projects.

4.   Let It Speak For You.

I firmly believe, if you put these little nuggets into practice, you can surely have success in your projects.  These methods have worked for me and the many clients I have had the pleasure servicing.  Reaching a suite spot of assurance that your project is just right for the effort you intended it for, is not only attainable, but replicate-able too.  Being able to determine what is sufficient and when more is needed, is not exact but it can be more visible that you think.  The right blend of text, images and complimentary content is a formula for success to work towards the next time you take on a marketing project.


  • Listen to your designer and trust their experience. 
  • Be clear and descriptive of your ideas and keep it precise and intentional.
  • Only communicate what is needed to get your target audience to make an either, informed decision or impulsive one. 

No matter the direction you take, if you practice these things, your CTA should be a no-brainer by the time your ideal customer comes into contact with your brand.

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