The Pros and Cons of Following the Minimalism Trend

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Minimalism is the art of saying and doing more with less. When you apply minimalism to your brand design, it becomes a philosophy that cuts across all elements of your brand – both tangible and intangible.

The tangible elements of your brand include its logo, products, website, and visual merchandising in its stores, while the intangible elements include your brand’s cultural values, vision, mission, and customer service. Maintaining a consistent philosophy across all your brand elements gives your customers a coherent experience at every point of interaction with your brand. Minimalism is no exception to this rule.

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Design trends: What is minimalism?

At its core, minimalism is design in its most basic form. It’s stripped of all superfluous elements, such as excessive use of colors, shapes, and textures. Its purpose is to make the content or product stand out as the focal point of attention. At a visual and psychological level, minimalism is supposed to calm the mind and let the viewer concentrate on just one thing: the brand itself.

Google’s branding is a great example of minimalist design in action:

Minimalism sprung from traditional Japanese design and architecture and emerged as a trend in 1960s America. It was a reaction to the excesses of Abstract Expressionism and the chaos of urban life. Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe followed the motto “less is more,” and sought to create architectural elements that served more than one visual or functional purpose.

Today, minimalism exists in a wide range of domains, including art, design, architecture, fashion, lifestyle, and even website themes. Like all design trends, minimalism has had its ups and downs. Today’s minimalistic trend owes a lot to millennials rediscovering it.

Core elements of minimalism

Minimalism, as a philosophy, is both timeless and classic. It is all about simplicity and consistency. Simplicity captures the viewer’s attention, and consistency keeps that attention.

Four basic elements form the foundation of minimalism:

  1. Less is more
  2. Managing negative space
  3. Visual harmony
  4. Colors and contrast

Let’s take a quick look at each element.

1. Less is more

If we could define minimalism in one rule, it would be to keep what is essential and discard the rest. This cuts across all brand elements, including logo, product design, website, and mission statement. Reducing the parts of each element makes them more impactful.

However, minimalism is not just emptiness and scarcity. We can think of it as stripping away what’s not needed to highlight what is really relevant. It’s not something you just slap on to your marketing material – it has to be ingrained into your brand, starting from your business proposal ideas and feeding into every aspect of how you do business.

Let’s compare the two websites below:

Lustone uses minimalist design to appear more elegant
The Michael Kors brand
Michael Kors

We have two sites: Lustone, an Australian leather bag brand, and Michael Kors, a well-known accessories brand. While both of them claim to be “luxury” brands, someone who knows little about fashion and accessories is likely to think Lustone’s (top) brand design is more luxurious. Why? Because of the website – it looks clean, sparse, and doesn’t overwhelm you with images.

In contrast, while Michael Kors clutch bags are actually more expensive than Lustone’s, there’s a lot going on in their product site. It might be very convenient to use, but it doesn’t look quite as “luxurious,” possibly because of all the options on the left side of the screen.

2. Managing negative space

A defining element of minimalism is really the lack of elements, or what designers call “negative space.” It’s what gives minimalism its power. One of the key rules of design is that the more negative space you have around an object, the more the eye will be drawn to that object.

The Leen Heyne homepage below is a good example of a minimalist web design theme. The web designer used a monochrome color scheme for the company name and logo, and the two jewelry pieces are surrounded by an expanse of negative space. You can bet that the viewer’s eye will be drawn straight to those two central objects.

The minimalist design of the Leen Heyne website

You can also use negative space creatively to highlight the spatial relations of your design. It adds a touch of elegance and exclusivity to the object of focus and is the preferred brand design format for many premium brands.

3. Visual harmony

Visual harmony is all about symmetry. The balance between and among elements breathes life into a minimalistic design by providing it with visual structure.

Let’s look at how this applies to web page design. Many web designers start by dividing their visual space with an invisible grid.

The grid creates a basic structure for organizing the elements and objects that designers place in it. From there, designers have multiple options for the layout. The easiest (and most common) way is to center the elements. However, if you have 3-4 elements that you want to display, it can quickly lead to a center crunch.

You can also use halved symmetry, where you divide the screen in half (usually horizontally and occasionally vertically). Each half has an equal number of elements, thereby maintaining the overall symmetry.

The third option is radial symmetry, where elements are placed in a near-circular pattern starting from the center. Finally, you have asymmetry, where the elements are arranged at random in the grid. This is the toughest to pull off because it can get chaotic very quickly if you’re not extremely careful about where you place your elements.

4. Colors, contrast, and textures

Minimalism is more than just black and white and shades of grey. You can also use colors in a minimalist design. However, you need to be critical about your choice of colors. Avoid using loud and high-contrast colors. Instead, go for tonal gradients and matching colors. The cheat sheet below will help you get started:

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