how to achieve minimalism

Throughout history, many people have chosen to live intentionally simplistic lifestyles, and some have even been so-called evangelists for the practice. Just look at the current popularity of tiny, minimalist houses and it’s easy to see that it’s possible to live and work with less. Minimalism doesn’t stop at lifestyles and worldly possessions — there’s also a lengthy history of Minimalism throughout our visual history. In the early 1960s, visual artists paved the way for Minimalism, a movement of artistic practice that questioned the conventional boundaries of Abstract Expressionism, and avoided excess symbolism, metaphors, and emotional content. Instead, these artists focused on their materials and the simplicity of the subject. However, art isn’t the only medium to employ the idea of Minimalism. Music, interior design, marketing, architecture, literature and web design have also taken cues from this concept of production. Take a look at some of the quotes below for a glimpse at the Minimalist movement and Minimalism in general. Later, I’ll explain how each quote pertains to design.

551 BCE. “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” –  Confucius
1879.“Make things as simple as possible but no simpler.” – Albert Einstein
1886. “Less is more.” – Mies Van Der Rohe
1936. “The simplest things are often the truest.” – Richard Bach

“Less is more.” – Mies Van Der Rohe

If you live in the English speaking world, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “less is more.” Okay, less is more. But why is less more? Is there some inherent beauty in simplicity? Is there something we, as humans, are drawn to in the purest, unrefined form of something? We probably now understand that an intentionally simplistic lifestyle is one that is both highly encouraged and often misconstrued. So, let’s start with the basic question: What is Minimalism?

Minimalism is:

  1. a trend in sculpture and painting that arose in the 1960s that used simple, but typically massive, forms.
  2. an avant-garde movement in music characterized by the repetition of very short phrases that change gradually, producing a hypnotic effect.
  3. intentionality marked by clarity and purpose.
  4. (or, my favorite definition): the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.

“Make things as simple as possible but no simpler.” – Albert Einstein

I once heard someone on a radio interview say, “People accuse us of living in a materialistic society, but we are the furthest thing from being materialistic. We toss out our possessions the minute something better comes along and the cycle never ends.” Essentially, this person was getting at the fact that it is far better to actually be materialistic and hold on to the few things we truly value than to be anti-materialistic and create a world of waste, superficiality and excess.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” –  Confucius

“But what does all this have to do with design?” you ask. Oh, just everything. People often overcomplicate the simple things in life– web design included. Now, I must say that I am not a web designer, graphic designer, or anything remotely similar. I do not have a background in design. That being said, I do strive to live a somewhat minimalistic lifestyle and I consider myself to have a good “eye” for design. I know what looks good, okay folks? Just trust that you are in the hands of someone with admittedly good taste.

Minimalism in design aims for simplicity and objectivity. It seeks to reduce work to the fundamental, the essential, and the necessary layers, thereby stripping away the ornamental and superfluous ones. Someone who I feel embodies this design style perfectly, and someone who I recently had the pleasure of hearing speak, is Maria Fabrizio. On her blog, Maria pairs a clean, simple illustration with a link to a corresponding news story.

“The simplest things are often the truest.” – Richard Bach

Think about it like this, have you ever been in a situation where the silence surrounding you became so uncomfortable that you rambled just to fill the silence? As someone who has done public speaking and group teamwork facilitation, I have learned to become comfortable with silence. For instance, when you ask a classroom full of students a question and no one replies, if you wait silently for a long enough time, someone will reply. White space in design is the same thing. White space is alright space. Do not feel the need to fill every centimeter of your design with conglomeration.

Mastering minimalist design is a great skill to obtain and build upon. You’ll soon realize it is an incredible skill to be able to do something simple, really well. With Minimalism, you can still play with textures, fonts, and think outside the box, because it is not all about black and white images. It is about finding patterns and related material and bringing them together in a simple, yet fully intentional, way that also makes sure nothing critical is overlooked and that nothing is lost on the viewer. For some additional examples, check out this article by Canva.

For help with your design and mastering simplicity, contact Smarter Searches at 865-766-4139.

  1. November 6, 2015

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