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Minimalistic Design & Its Origins

What comes to mind when thinking about the term minimalism? Is it a style that many present day designers use to strip away everything? Or is it a design requiring a lot of white space on the canvas with black type? Truth be told all of this is true, but how did all of this start?

According to, "minimalist graphic design is a philosophy of creating something where every element serves a purpose. It is simple, clean and beautiful. It is highly usable. These designs are easy for users to understand and engage with." In the future, I will cover examples and tips for these principle done right in action. However, for today you will receive the good ole history lesson of Minimalism.


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Minimalist design emerged in the 20th century as a reaction to and rejection of the highly decorative styles of the past. Primarily the styles minimalist artist and designers were rejecting was Victorian architecture and Abstract Expressionism. Some design historians trace the origins to the simplified forms epitomized by the Dutch De Stijl movement of 1917 to the early 1930s. Minimal art, also called ABC art, is the culmination of reductionist tendencies in modern art that first surfaced in the 1913 composition by the Russian painter Kasimir Malevich of a black square on a white ground (painting is shown above). It's also widely acknowledged to have been influenced by the zen simplicity of traditional Japanese gardens, interiors, and clean aesthetics of Scandinavian design. Nonetheless, minimalist graphic design, art, theater, and fashion came into its own in the 1960s. Particularly the American movement originated in, you guessed it, New York City in the late 1960s.


My Take

So not to bore you any longer with the history lesson, let's jump into my opinion on minimalism. However, first I would like to answer some questions such as: Why the jump to minimalism today? How effective has minimalism been? How long will minimalism's run last?

So why has there been a jump to minimalism currently? In my opinion, it has a lot to do with the advancement of technology and the way in which we receive information. We all know it's easier than ever to receive information at the click of the button from our mobile devices. Quite frankly, there is almost information overload for us simple folks. Many people just want the quickest information delivered to them as efficiently as possible. In an effort to help consumers, many companies and industries have chosen to help their consumer base get information, products and or services to them as simple as possible. This is where having minimalistic design helps out a ton because one of the major mottos of this style is less is more. Minimalism of course is also become a lifestyle for many Americans. For many who choose this life, they have become overwhelmed and tired of America's seemingly insatiable appetite for consumerism. So if you're a business with a customer base of people who agree with the minimal lifestyle it's become imperative to speak to them. Whether that's through the look, feel, or voice of the brand, it's become important for those businesses.

Next, how effective has minimalism been? I would have to say it's been quite effective for the companies and consumers. From Apple to Google to Amazon to Adobe to Coca Cola to your favorite restaurant. Many of these companies have adopted automation, cloud-based tools, processes that are streamlined. All of these things have lend businesses being more adaptable when times change, knowing the right tools to use, personal freedom, increased productivity, and simplicity and comfort for the consumer.

Finally, how long will this run last? If I was a betting man, I'd say this trend has a runway of a good 10–15 more years. Of course, you can never truly know what the future holds, but trends are simple that, trends. Tbh, I have no significant proof to back this prediction outside of knowing human nature. Trends come and go, and one day another style will be introduced to the public.


Posted by Jonathan Irving of JI Designs LLC on 01/23/21.


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