Minimalism

I recently watched some videos by Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting (who does cool film critique stuff, like cinematic techniques, not plot/character/development). A lot of how power is perceived, which character is deemed more important because of how they’re placed in the shot, how to convey information through different means instead of just dialogue. The most important (to me at least) information I’ve learned comes from directors Satoshi Kon (Tokyo Grandfathers, Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress, Paprika) and David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo). Both of them have this kind of minimal filming style; they never move the camera unless they have to, never add any effect unless it serves a purpose, never include a scene we don’t need to see.

For example, in Tokyo Godfathers there’s a scene where the main girl looks at a locker key, but we don’t see her pick it up. Move on to the next scene. Later in the movie, they’re in front of the locker and need to open it, and she produces the key out of her pocket.

It’s stuff like that where I remember what Gale Okumura once told me. “Don’t do bad design, and you’ll end up doing good design.” I used to think that it was the other way around, but watching the minimal approach to film editing and my own recent experiences have taught me that there are way, way more mistakes out there than I know about. And a lot of bad design to be done. Most of the time, bad design happens because of unnecessary details, like too many fonts, too many differences. Susan used to say, “Use the minimum effective difference,” which is very useful in typography. Do I have to make this italic and a different color? Do I need to make this bigger and outline it? Does this have to be this big? Does this have to be this small? No. There is a perfect balance, and I’m beginning to realize that design is about reaching the perfect minimum.

Remove everything unnecessary. What is left is the right solution.