Simplicity in design: When is minimalism too simple?

While perusing design.alltop.com and choosing today’s link on minimalist design, I ran across a series of posts from Graphic Design Blog on minimalism in design. The first article, titled “Minimalist Designs – Is it a trend or are we just being lazy?” explores the minimalist movement that has characterized the graphic design world in recent decades. When is minimalism too minimal? Is minimalism just laziness (less stuff, less work?)?

Minimalism is a trend in graphic designing that involves stripping down the design to its most basic features. Although minimalism is percieved as an effortless task…only graphic designers know it isn’t that easy. Minimalism involves extreme conceptualism and abstraction. –Graphic Design Blog

So, minimalism works, but not when it sacrifices clarity and a core message. The author asserts that minimalism without purpose can be disastrous, then takes us through several examples of minimalism gone wrong. So, what causes a minimalism fail?

1. Doing it just because, or the bandwagon effect.

No contact number, no address, not an email id. What is the point of a business card if your client is not getting the complete information about your business? --Graphic Design Blog

2. Believing that it’s easier to navigate minimalist designs.

But keeping it too minimal fails to convey your business purpose and creates a false impression on your customers. The purpose of a website is to facilitate customers and inform of your services. What’s the purpose of a websites if it does not clearly explain what services your business has to offer? –Graphic Design Blog

Want an awesome example of minimalist design that is also immersive and dynamic? Check out the Nizo for iPhone app website.

3. Believing details equal clutter. But, how do you decide what’s detail and what’s clutter?

Here the author uses the example of flavored salts to indicate that, “while it is true that too much clutter in a design can create a messy design… going too minimal fails to reach targeted audience.” I actually really love these flavored salts and their design, which is based on the periodic table. Sure, I suppose it’s for a very specific audience of nerds, but it’s still awesome. Instead, I’ll use the rebranding fail by Tropicana.

Tropicana customers railed against this redesign--many people thought their juice had been replaced by a generic brand. Sure, it's cleaner, more modern, but it's not Tropicana.

 4. Too much explanation creates confusion.

Here, the author emphasizes that content-rich and clutter are not the same thing. There is a difference between “informative design” that “is also necessary in explaining the clients about your business” and unnecessary design elements.

5. Simple is creative, right?

I think one of the best examples of simplicity and creativity that works is the FedEx logo. I recently read the story of how this logo came about. It took Lindon Leader 200 designs to land on this amazing use of negative space.

But what is the point of minimalism if it does not accurately communicate the purpose to the target audience? --Graphic Design Blog

I think about how this ties in to the design of effective visual aids. My students often feel anxiety when I ask them to create simple, clean slides. They apologize for creating something that is so simple and straightforward. I reassure them that I can tell the difference between lazy design and clean design…

This takes attention to contrast, placement of elements, and work with thinking conceptually.

This does not.

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2 thoughts on “Simplicity in design: When is minimalism too simple?

  1. Really nice information. thanks for sharing such a good information.
    I have learned some information from your blog thanks a lot
    periodic table

  2. […] Less is More (From Presentation Zen Design) […]

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