Minimalism in Life and Design

KAYAK Spotlight Interview: Irene Georgiou, Senior Product Designer

Alkistis Mavroeidi
Jul 13, 2018 · 7 min read

What’s your role at KAYAK?

I’m a Senior Product Designer at KAYAK and I’m currently working on Flights. Specifically on the Flights Results Page, which is mainly solving user problems and coming up with new ideas on how to make the process as simple as possible for our users. For example, the baggage fees and how we communicate that information to the users so that they know what they’re buying.

What led you to this career path?

I come from a computer science background, but after I worked as a developer for a few years, I decided I wanted to do something a little more creative. So I did my Masters in the UK in Digital Media Arts, where I explored different Creative Technologies like Video, Animation, Augmented Reality, Photography. After that, I worked for a couple of years as a hybrid developer-designer. As I got to design more, I realized that this was my thing and it was clear to me that I didn’t want to see code again in my life. [laughs] I worked for several years as a designer and as the industry evolved, I became a UI designer, a UX designer, and now a product designer.

So how did minimalism become important to you as a tool in your life and in your work?

For me, minimalism started when I was packing several years ago to move from Cyprus to Berlin to start working for KAYAK. It started simply because there was no way that I could bring everything I had to Berlin. And a year later, I had to move from Berlin to the US. During those moves, I had to get rid of a lot of things that I truly loved and I felt that I needed. But through this process, I started adopting a lifestyle of taking with me only what was necessary. I also came to realize that this concept can be applied to many aspects of my life. So I started to embrace minimalism as a philosophy. And even though I’m not fully there yet, I now feel more comfortable getting rid of things that once had a more sentimental value. I keep the memories but get rid of the excess. It’s very refreshing to let go of these things and declutter.

How do you feel minimalism affects your everyday life?

Well, I have fewer decisions which is amazing. For example, every day you wake up in the morning and you have to pick your clothes for the day. If you only keep the clothes that you love, there’s no way that you can go wrong. Whatever you choose from your closet is something you really like so it will always make you feel good.

Relationships is another example. We spend lots of time with people we aren’t thrilled to meet and they suck our energy out of us. You need to keep people that always make you feel better after you see them. The people you let into your life should be a conscious decision.

So minimalism helps you save precious time…

Yes, and it removes a lot of extra stress and clutter that we don’t really need in our lives. You stop thinking “this new phone is out, this new t-shirt is out, I have to have it”. At that point, instead of possessing items, your items possess you and it’s not healthy anymore. If you think about it, all that stuff in your house, garages, storage units used to be money. Money used to be time. Was the trade-off worth it?

Every person can see minimalism differently. You don’t necessarily need to get rid of your car, your bed or your home to live a minimalistic life. If you are not ready to let go of those things, you can define it with what’s important to you. Minimalism is about removing the excess, the clutter and keeping only the essentials.

Speaking about that, what’s some practical advice you would give to someone who is interested in exploring that lifestyle?

I started with an article I found on a website, called . You begin with defining your “should”s. For example, “I should exercise more”, or “I should talk to my family more”. And then you turn these “should”s into “must”s. “I must talk to my family more”. During these 21 days, you need to pack everything up into boxes and you only take out the things that you use on your daily life. This might sound a bit daunting to many people. There are other techniques too, like in which you find a friend or family member and each of you has to exponentially get rid of more things every day. On the first day you get rid of one thing. On the second, two things. Three items on the third, and so on. And that can be as small as a paper clip. It doesn’t need to be your couch.

Moving on from lifestyle, how do you think minimalism has affected you work as a designer?

That’s a great question. As designers we want to be innovative and creative and often times that comes with a cost, we forfeit usability. For example I might design the coolest-looking chair, but when you sit on it, it’s just uncomfortable. That’s exactly when minimalism comes in play. What problem are you really trying to solve and why is it necessary to add all of that to your design? What is their purpose?

For me, one of the first design explorations of that idea came from Picasso’s work “Bull”. Picasso reduces the bull to a simple outline through the progressive development of each image, that it captures the absolute essence of the creature in as concise an image as possible.

For all design problems it is the same thing. It’s about continually asking ourselves — what are we really trying to solve outside of color and aesthetics? Each and every element should serve a purpose, fulfill a certain need. This is the reason why I find the mobile-first approach really interesting. Because when you have a very small screen, then you really concentrate on what needs to go in that space. Designing for desktop can be tricky, because you’ll go “Oh I have a full desktop, let’s put a ton of stuff in there to make it look nice.” And then you are completely missing the point.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Is there a designer or company that you really look up to as a pioneer in minimalistic design?

For me the main instigator was Picasso, and I actually read that ” when new employees were coming in, during their training. I guess he was inspired by Picasso and interpreted his style through design and engineering.

Do you think minimalism is the future?

[laughs] Actually, I think it’s not. Mainly because many people are getting too hung up on owning so many things. It’s hard to say no. You really need to practice that as a philosophy in your life. You need to spend the time and make conscious decisions to be a minimalist. It won’t just happen.

I don’t know if it’s the future but I’m sure it’ll be a catalyst for living fuller lives. If we get rid of our need to possess stuff, to make conscious decisions about what to buy, instead of following the trends. But then, I don’t know if capitalism would survive with more people like me.

What about in design? Do you see an opposing force right now?

The only threat that I see is that everything starts to look the same. Design is becoming more and more neutral with the risk of losing the brand’s character. All the apps are similar, using only white, black and imagery. And if you look at the rebranding of many companies, the brands look very much alike, they all use very similar fonts with just different colors. Imagine a famously stylized logo suddenly having a normal sans font… What? [laughs] That’s not what minimalism is. You need to keep the character.

I think minimalism as a way of solving problems is the future for design, because today users are very demanding and they want to get to their goals as fast as possible. But at the same time, we need to consider how to maintain our character, and that’s the same for a person too. If you’re a minimalist it doesn’t mean that you necessarily lose your character. You’re keeping the essence. You’re maintaining what’s important.

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