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Minimalist Design: Everything you need to know

There has been a new movement going around recently called Minimalism. But this time, we’re not going to talk about a minimalist lifestyle, we’re going to have a look at something different. Minimalist design. You have probably heard the word minimalism but maybe you have never explored it in the context of design. So let me explain.

What Is Minimalist Design? The Main Principles

It is the latest trend online and everyone is following it but it has actually existed for quite some time.

The minimalist art movement started around the late 1960s. Bauhaus and De Stijl were some of the first art movements that focused on simplicity. Before that, lots of decoration and detail were preferred. Even though it started as an art movement, it can now be applied to architecture, videos, music, illustrations and it has even become a lifestyle.

Less is more

This is fairly self-explanatory. Designers and artists try to use the least as possible to create the biggest effect. Rather than filling up space with decoration, which just distracts the viewer, only the essential elements are left. Doing this creates a focal point, making the design more powerful.

Another motto that you may not have heard of is ‘form follows function’. This was the motto of Bauhaus used to stress the importance of having functional elements rather than ‘useless’ decoration.

Functional

Each element should have its own function. Minimalist design, whatever type of design, only has the core elements and colors. If something doesn’t have a function or adds value, then it should be removed. Be intentional when you are adding new things. Don’t clutter the space.

Simple

Always design with simplicity in mind. Think ‘What’s the simplest way I could draw this?’ or ‘How can I design this with the fewest elements?’. Product design and web design are the two types of design which I feel can always benefit from simplicity and minimalism (but that’s just a personal preference).

Why is this important? Well, let’s take website design for example. If it’s simple, it’s easier to navigate. If you are trying to communicate a message, then having a simple design, makes it easier to get your point across. Simplicity is the key to minimalism.

Characteristics Of Minimalist Design

01. White Space

A minimalist design can’t be considered minimalistic without the use of white space (although it doesn’t always need to be white). With minimalist design, you don’t need to feel pressured to fill up the whole page or area. Leaving blank space is what defines minimalism. Don’t try to overcomplicate it.

Having a lot of negative space also draws the eyes to the important parts of your design.

02. Colour

Don’t be afraid to use it. While most of us associate minimalism with black and white, it’s not always the case. Just don’t go too crazy with it. Most minimalist artists tend to use one or two colors. Using any more will probably make it seem too cluttered. It’s just a general guideline, you don’t need to follow it every time.

Be minimal with your colours and when you decide which ones you want to use, stick with them and be consistent.

03. Simple Shapes

Geometry is another important part. Use basic and simple shapes in your design, whether that’s in a building or an illustration. Having complex shapes and concepts could confuse the user and cause them to miss what you are trying to communicate.

05. Typography

Words, and more importantly how you arrange them is another thing you must consider carefully. There isn’t one right font for minimalism. Saying this, most people go for a more basic-looking one usually sans serif. Just makes sure it is are really easy to read.

Experiment with a variety of fonts and arrange them differently on the page to see what works. Making a piece of text really small or really big is a good way to draw someone’s attention to it. Be bold with typography.

06. Create A Focal point

On every minimalist design, there is a point where your eyes are drawn to. If the design is too busy and cluttered, you won’t be able to focus on one thing as you will be too distracted looking at everything else. This is why it’s crucial to have only the core elements.

Decide what’s is the most important part and then come up with different ways to make it stand out. Don’t be afraid to try new things out.

07. Consistency

Whether it is across your website, building, or a graphic design collection, there should be a theme running through them. It’s yet another way to keep things simple. Imagine if each page of your website had a different layout or used different shapes. It just wouldn’t look good. It’s important to think about this at the very beginning so you can plan it out.

08. Use a grid

When designing, use a grid to guide you. It’s best to align things well for a ‘cleaner’ look. Everything needs to fit nicely together and be aligned with each other. Otherwise, it would look a bit off. These are the small details you need to think about. It’s not just about the individual text, shapes, etc, you need to think about how they fit together. This is more important in minimalist design than probably any other design movement.

09. Balanced

Find a balance. You can’t have too much text or too much color or even too much space because it will look odd. Every letter and every shape needs to have its place on the page. It might take a bit of practice to get it just right so keep experimenting and moving things around. Make sure nothing is overpowering everything else.

10. Think Different

Just because a design is simple and minimalistic, it shouldn’t make it boring. Think outside the box to create unique designs. You could do so much. Try to come up with something no one has come up with by connecting ideas in new and creative ways.

11. Use Contrast

This is an important principle in design in general. If you have been in this industry for a while you will know how important this one is. Using contrast makes things stand out better. Find that balance we talked about. As they say, there are no bad colours, just bad combinations.

12. Timeless

One great benefit of minimalist design is that it’s often timeless. What I mean by this, is that it doesn’t get old. You can always make small changes to update it, but it will always be in style.

A couple of good examples are iPhones and Google. While their core elements have stayed the same, they have evolved the design to fit in with the current times.

13. Be clever

Sometimes the most minimal design makes you think the most because they contain clever simple elements. These could be a creative combination of shapes or making one thing look like another. Design simpler but smarter to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

14. Flat

It’s not always the case but making a design 2D creates a less cluttered look. I would say, this applies mostly to web design and illustration. Minimalist design tries to avoid complexity. Drawing in 3D is not the best to do this, but like always there are exceptions. You could still make a 3D illustration minimalistic if you try.

15. Break a rule

You don’t always have to stick strictly to these. Use them as guidelines. A good rule thumb is to break one rule per design. Doing this will make your design more interesting. For example, you could add multiple colors or add a 3D element in a 2D drawing. You can do anything you want. You should never feel restricted when designing.

Why Is Minimalist Design Important?

Minimalism attempts to improve communication between the artists and the viewer which is after all what design is all about.

I believe everyone can enjoy minimalist design. Of course, not every design can be minimalistic. You need to decide for yourself if it’s going to work for your specific project.

In the age of technology where our attention span has dropped considerably, it would be clever to use minimalism if you want to get your point across as quickly and effectively as possible. We are consuming so much and that includes food, products, and information. Maybe it’s time to take a breath and become more minimal.

Conclusion

To most people, minimalist design probably seems easy. However, they don’t see how much thought needs to go behind these clean, effortless designs. It seems easy at first, but it can be quite challenging if you are new to it. Not everyone is used to it and it will take some practice to get the hang of it.

Embrace a minimalist approach to designing and get your point across better and more effectively without all the clutter. If there’s one main thing I want you to take away from this, is to be more intentional.

Author

  • I've always cared about the planet but never knew how I could use my skills to create an impact. But that's when I decided to start Terra Movement. To get other creatives involved in the climate movement and inspire more people to help the planet and its people.

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