The art of reductive design

Chuck Pearson
Published in
2 min readSep 21, 2016


Good designers work extra hard to make sure that their designs actually delight users, encourage the correct interaction, and are easy-to-use. This means that when users explore a site, they not only get what they’re looking for but get a little bit more on top of that. However, this doesn’t mean that design should be expansive (meaning, you continue to add more and more). This is where people are sometimes led astray by thinking that you have to cram a lot into a site in order to make it useful and worthwhile. Actually, the opposite is true. Good design should be reductive, not expansive.

We are minimalists. In our work, we strive to remove unnecessary elements and streamline a site down to its most essential elements. This means that we have to analyze and assess exactly what the goals of the site are and then get rid of everything that competes with or stands in the way of those goals. As users, we have limited attention. We can only focus on one thing at a time. Every time an extra element is added into a website or app, whether it’s additional navigational elements, bold colors, motion, sound, etc., it pulls the user’s attention away from something else.

The more complex technical functionality that a site has, the more of a challenge it can be to make a clean, simple interface. We love challenges like this! Every tiny design feature, from the small snippets of text to drop down menus to colors, contrast, motion and everything else, has to earn a place in our interfaces. Giant 3D buttons with shadows don’t actually do the user any favors, so we tend to go with super minimalist flat design and employ tasteful choices with simple, strong colors.

Another element of reductive design is to factor in the user experience over time. Incorporating smart icons in the interface means that the user will take less time to recognize them and their functionality as they see them more and more often (i.e. recognition). This reduces processing time in the brain and generally creates a more pleasing user experience.

Reductive design is becoming more critical these days, as there is an ever-increasing amount of information that people want to share on the Web and with mobile devices. With so much content out there begging for our attention, taking a minimalist, less is more approach can help sites to stand out from the crowd, which is why so much of today’s design work is embracing the art of simplicity.