What is minimalism? My take on it

July 4, 2016

minimalism /ˈmɪnɪməˌlɪz(ə)m/ n

  1. A movement in sculpture and painting which arose in the 1950s, characterized by the use of simple, massive forms.
  2. An avant-garde movement in music characterized by the repetition of very short phrases which change gradually, producing a hypnotic effect.
  3. Deliberate lack of decoration or adornment in style or design

– Oxford Dictionaries

It is the third meaning that is picking up with the designers in the digital world. But, is minimalism really about deliberately eliminating things to bring out an effect or there is some thinking behind it? I think there is. Right from the times of its conception, the flag-bearers consciously applied a very well thought-out strategy to make their designs look minimalistic. They didn’t resort to constant chopping and cutting.


Take a look at the above picture. The table and staircase designs, especially. Both have no embellishments, but they work. Hold on, would they work in all cases? For example, can I sit on these chairs for a longer time? Maybe not, because the seats have no cushion, and you might risk hurting your back doing so. Similarly, the staircase might not be very much suitable for older people as there is nothing to hold. So, should we now consider that minimalism as a concept fails? Absolutely not. The above arguments about chairs and staircase are pushing the choice-of-style out of its context. You need to keep in mind that all the items were designed “optimally” to be used by certain people of certain ages in a certain context. If any of these parameters are stretched, the design might look like a failure.

Minimalism doesn’t mean that we eliminate a lot of features and make way for white spaces. Minimalism is to have all the features and design elements that are adequate to result in a good experience for a given set of users in a given context and nothing more.

There are many beautiful examples of brilliant minimalistic designs in the digital world, like the Mac mini and iMac. They have everything that a user expects from them and nothing more. The look and features do not do anything that is not necessary.

So, when you plan to go for minimalism, keep in mind only one keyphrase – adequate for users in a context and nothing more.


Image credit – Pixabay

2 comments on “What is minimalism? My take on it

  1. Rajesh

    Is minimalism behind the reason that let us design page has no “like” button but linked in does? Just focus on design , like or not, message is sent across quite well! bravo!

Leave a Reply