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What is minimalism in graphic design and how can one apply this concept to a design? I keep seeing the term minimalist design while reading graphic-related websites and magazines, but I'm not so sure on the specifics. Could someone explain this?

  • One could argue that minimalism is the opposite of skeuomorphism. Just take a look at ever computer. Even the one in your hand. Everything has gone from skeuomorphism is minimalistic design. You've got examples all around you – LateralTerminal Nov 15 '17 at 17:37
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Less is more

ie. Strip down to the necessary elements. Throw away noise and clutter. Create a zen-like experience. Ask: "Is this necessary?" It is hard to give other rules or principles since they can be successfully broken and minimalism maintained. If I had to describe minimalism with one word, it could be breathable or an antonym for chaos.

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    One of my favorite minimalist designs is the Mac/PC commercials. Two guys, on a blank stage, with occasional props. In fact, Apple stuff is often minimalist. – Hack Saw Jan 26 '11 at 3:12
  • Utilitarianism goes hand in hand with minimalism in graphic design. – Nick Bedford May 9 '11 at 22:18
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  • while funny this doesn't really help OP since it doesn't answer the question with any explanation. – Luciano Feb 13 '18 at 16:52
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It's important to know that Minimalism is a thought process instead of an end look. If you design with the goal is make it more "minimalist," chances are you're doing it wrong. The thought process involves creating elements that are absolutely necessary without adding anymore value-less clutter.

One of my favorite quotes:

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

As with all design styles, Minimalism isn't always the best solution. As designers, it's up to us to decide to use the best style for the purpose of specific designs.

Often, "less" isn't "more."

From an essay titled Ten Things I Have Learned by Milton Glaser, he writes:

LESS IS NOT NECESSARILY MORE. Being a child of modernism I have heard this mantra all my life. Less is more. One morning upon awakening I realised that it was total nonsense, it is an absurd proposition and also fairly meaningless. But it sounds great because it contains within it a paradox that is resistant to understanding. But it simply does not obtain when you think about the visual of the history of the world. If you look at a Persian rug, you cannot say that less is more because you realise that every part of that rug, every change of colour, every shift in form is absolutely essential for its aesthetic success. You cannot prove to me that a solid blue rug is in any way superior. That also goes for the work of Gaudi, Persian miniatures, art nouveau and everything else. However, I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate. ‘Just enough is more.’

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    @Littlemad as much as I love Minimalism, my point was it's not a style that's suited for every design case. Imagine if you were doing a flyer web site for Chinese New Year festival, a minimalist look isn't not appropriate, nor will it invoke the right emotional response. Less is not More in that case. "Appropriate is more" should be the motto for every design decision. – Jin Jan 25 '11 at 18:09
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    @Jin: JFW was asking on what is minimalism, and where is good to apply it. Which I would expect at least to explain what LESS IS MORE is, and than speak about "Just enough is more". I think that both concept are good and meaningful in design terms, only that in the brainstorming/concept phase when we think on "what we have to do" that we decide the style. It has no meaning to approach everything with "less is more", it is just a current of design that helps to put in prospective a style to design. In interaction and information (when usability is important) I find it more useful than others. – Littlemad Jan 26 '11 at 8:33
  • @Littlemad fair point! – Jin Jan 27 '11 at 10:03
  • 'Less is more' is a vastly overused cliché; the Saint-Exupéry quote can lead into a discussion on what's really important - which might indeed be 'decorative' elements if the context demands it. – e100 May 9 '11 at 17:22
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It means having a purpose and a plan. If anything doesn't help achieve the purpose, it doesn't make the cut. If it doesn't fall within the parameters of the plan, it gets axed. See also: The definition of busy design for what it's not.

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I found this showcase from Smashing Magazine to be very informative:

http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/05/13/principles-of-minimalist-web-design-with-examples/

Minimalism is achieved by reducing a design to only the most essential elements. [...] Essentially, minimalism is about breaking things down to the barest elements necessary for a design to function. It’s about taking things away until nothing else can be removed without interfering with the purpose of the design.

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To put it simply (and somewhat bluntly), minimalistic design means design using only few shapes, components and objects. Basically, design without many frills, details and unneccesary decorations.

The idea behind this, is what koiyu's picture visualises and describes fairly well (though not completely). Less isn't always more, but a minimalistic design emphasises the few things you do see. Simple yet pretty.

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Dribbble is a good place to seek inspriation and many of the "dribbbles" exhibit minimalism. I find it's a very common design method amongst graphic designers these days.

Some examples from Dribbble:

J Is For Jet

J Is For Jet

Winwood

Winwood

Blue Round Player

Blue Round Player

Lost

Lost

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    Every one of those contains something not vital to the design. From top to bottom; background pattern; 'grunge' effect and background pattern; patterns and gradients; noise and lighting effects. Not really minimalistic, but that's just my view. – Scott Brown May 10 '11 at 10:43

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