Minimalism refers to a design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect. Its history runs deep in art, music, architecture and graphic design. Many times in design you also hear the terms “Form Follows Function”. It’s a principle coined by 20th century modernist architects and industrial designers. They created this principle based on the idea that the shape of a building or object were primarily based on the intended function or purpose. Minimal design worked its way into graphic design and within the last 8 years into the mainstream of web design, software and computer products.
Minimal web design isn’t a trend or fad, because it centers around an experience that is refined and targeted to serve its purpose. You architect a site that’s centered around quality content and goal-driven interactions. From there, you add in the essential visuals that complement the content and design a layout that brings all of these elements together. What you’re left with is a streamlined digital solution that’s to the point.
It’s taken a long time for the web design industry to get to this level of aesthetic. For years, websites and design software (like Photoshop) were in the wrong hands. The early years of the web relied heavily on the skill of programmers and “web masters” to do everything. While these people were talented at code, they were not visual designers or UX strategists. So, you had a lot of bad websites floating around the internet. As the industry matured, web teams began to expand with new roles. Designers, Information Architects and writers were commissioned to work alongside developers. The end product was a website of higher quality on every level.
The push for content quality control has been an influential part of the minimal movement. The rapid growth of technology bombarded users with immense amounts of information, so much so that our brains and eyes became overloaded. All across the board from radio, TV, computers and the internet, there was simply too much useless information passing through to us. Every bit of time and every bit of space was filled with something. From advertising to poorly curated content and clunky user interfaces and software, it all contributed to a push for simplified consumption of quality information and user-centric interactions. God bless whoever invented the DVR or the fact that we can upgrade our music subscriptions, so we can avoid commercials. In the web world, you had sites that had so much text that it felt like you had to read a book, before you could get the information that you needed. Forcing users to sift through paragraphs of text to get useful information was grueling and utterly frustrating.
What makes minimal design timeless is that it’s not a trend, it’s a way of thinking. It embodies cleanliness, organization and sophistication in ways that appeal to the masses. What you’re left with is meaningful design married with concise copy wrapped up in a simplified user experience. Long gone are the days of websites with glossy/3-dimensional buttons, heavy drop shadows, dark gradients, over-the-top pattern/textured backgrounds and paragraph after paragraph of text. The end goal of minimal web design is clarity in content, usability and a purposeful aesthetic.
What are your thoughts on minimal design? Love it? Hate it? Indifferent? We want to know. Get in on the conversation in the comments.
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