Join Dave Schultze for an in-depth discussion in this video Minimalism = Less is more, part of Design Foundation 3D: Shape and Form.
- This lesson on minimalism is now over. Okay, a better definition would be a design that is exceptionally clean with as few details as possible. This carries over to color, so expect to see a lot of very simple and monochromatic color palettes. The designs can sometimes be a little abstract, but is not mandatory. Starting in the 2D world of painting we have this example of minimalism from Yves Klein. This 1962 work is called I KB 191.
The name is actually an acronym for International Klein Blue, a unique shade of ultramarine he created for just his work. If there is not enough going on for your taste, then you will appreciate this fact. In one art show, he had 11 of these identical canvases. In advertising, you can't miss this work for McDonald's. Created by DDB in Australia, they used a series of french fries to announce the launch of Wi-Fi, or "wi-fri" in their stores. A really nice touch is the subtle red gradient background.
It centers the composition and draws the eye inward. I'm loving this ad. This stainless steel tableware set by David Mellor is called Minimal. You'll see that each piece is a single material with only a slight variation in finish texture. Their marketing had an interesting quote. The aesthetic purity has made it a favorite with designers and architects. When you hear words like these, it can be a warning that the ergonomics might be compromised, but these work well. On the subject of functional compromise, let's check out this minimalist chair design by NN Design Band.
Titled the Gentle Hint Chair, it's a reminder that minimalism can be very challenging, especially when you're dealing with ergonomics and the human body. It is striking to look at, but I imagine it is a much more comfortable just standing up. In product design, no one is better than the clean aesthetic than Dieter Rams for Braun. His famous quote is even efficient in his use of three words, "Less but better." Picking one example of his incredible output is impossible, so let's just take a look at his RT20 radio.
We have a simple box, proportioned for the function of the speaker, but everything is organized to a high degree. Notice how the output speaker and input controls are separated on each side. Then the controls are clustered by function. Ram's design work has also been a huge influence on other designers, including the Apple design team. If your interested in following up on his work, and you should, look up his Ten Principles for Good Design. It's not a book, just a fastening short summary of his process and you can find it online for free.
When talking about architectural minimalism, all discussions must mention Mies van der Rohe. As an architect, he was also involved in the German Bauhaus from the 1930s, one of the most influential art and design schools in history. He coined two famous phrases, "Less is more," and "God is in the details." He was one of a small handful of architects who pioneered this modernist architecture and the style is still with us today. The architectural design philosophy was one of simplicity and open plans.
Mies liked free flowing spaces, organized with what he called skin and bones architecture. This means only use the minimum that is necessary. This image of the Barcelona Pavilion from 1929, highlights these ideas perfectly and is considered a masterpiece, that was later rebuilt. Notice how the walls stop and start exactly at the floor and ceiling. There is no trim or details anywhere. There are no separate window openings, just floor to ceiling glass.
Minimalism can be striking and beautiful when done well, however I believe it takes more talent and effort to pull off successfully. Why? You're working with less ingredients, so mistakes can be magnified.
First, see how the same idea can be applied in a smaller 2D scale—like graphics and print, fine art, and advertising. Dave then blows it up in 3D, and showcases examples from product design, furniture, architecture, and urban planning.
Projects and concepts are presented in an engaging and sometimes irreverent manner with images, videos, and personal and professional stories from Dave. Check out this fast-paced tour as it covers topics ranging from grids and axes to designing with humor.
- Design exploration with sketching
- 3D exploration with organic forms
- Grids and axes
- Defining space
- Color and contrast
- Texture and patterns
- Minimalism. Less is more.
- Retro. It's back!