Minimalism in design ‐ Strawberry

In recent years, the use of minimalism in design has been overshadowed by ‘flat design’. Apple’s design team coined this term for their new iOS interface, and it seems we loved it so much we called just about everything flat. Even editorial and identity design.

But minimalism has now become the norm in branding, app design and print. Notable examples are Apple’s iOS7, MIT Media Lab’s identity by Pentagram, and Google’s material design principles. And there are many other brands that are also adopting a more clinical, minimalist approach to UI design, UX design and design thinking.

It’s a method/process that always resonates with most designers at some point. We all experiment with the idea of stripping back our ideas to the bare minimum. Juggling imagery and colour, space and type.

Ignoring what we want to call it, what it really says about the industry is that we need to make things simple.

It goes back to the early days of Lazlo Maholy-Nagy and Walter Gropius of the Bauhaus School, and the idea of design adapting to the society we live in to make our lives better. This can be seen in flat design where the idea is to create something that’s efficient, clear and simple.

But the case for minimalism in design is greater than simply flat design. It boils down to the bare idea of design itself. As designers, we should be adopting honest, socially aware design. After all, we got into this business to make lives better in some shape or form.

Another great example of keeping things simple is the ‘Swiss style’ of design. This is the idea of working from the smallest element up using typography to communicate in the most universal way possible. But like all movements, there are designers who push the boundaries.

Massimo Vignelli used grids to structure his designs to create intricate levels of communication. Vignelli was noted to have only ever used a handful of typefaces in his career, and was an advocate of stripping out visual pollution. And Paul Rand used simple shapes and forms to create beauty.

Rand believed by using beauty alone products would appeal more to consumers. Some may say this is just advertising, but he wanted society to enjoy beautiful things and to make the capitalist landscape beautiful, not ugly.

Picasso was one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century, and throughout his career he focused on creating great detail in his works. It took him nearly all his life to understand what his purpose was and the value of minimalism. His journey is a great testament to how we all should look at our own work.

Rand would’ve most likely called himself a postmodernist rather than a ‘Swiss style’ designer, and Picasso was anything but a designer. But both believed in creating work that communicated clearly and simply.

Notes: 1. Lazlo Maholy-Nagy was an photographer/artists and design instructor of the foundation course at the Bauhaus School in 1923.

2. Walter Gropius was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School.

3. Massimo Vignelli was an Italian designer, best known for designing the New York Subway map.

4. Paul Rand was an American graphic designer, famous for his logo designs for IBM, IPS and ABC.

Author: Sam Mearns

Originally published at on September 23, 2016.

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