The other day I was watching my son as he played and was fascinated as he climbed in and out of a box. He giggled as he hid and jumped out to scare dad. He filled it with blocks and balls and then emptied it out again. He was in his own little world, all the while completely ignoring the expensive toy that came in that box. It’s funny how something as simple as a cardboard box can be hours of fun for a 19-month-old. This also made me think about what I do on a day-to-day basis. Oftentimes you try to design the coolest, most outrageous design when all you really need is something simple that conveys the message you are trying to deliver, cleanly and effectively.
Recently I’ve been noticing a common thread in various forms of design that is very minimalistic in nature. While minimalism can be viewed as part of a movement dating back to the 60s, I think that it has evolved into something greater than a specific style or trend. It is simply design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect.
Take Apple as an example. They have truly figured out what their core brand is and it shapes their culture as well as drives everything they do as a business. They live the brand. The best designs are those that have removed the excess or the fluff and Apple is a perfect example of this. There is nothing superfluous about how their products function, right down to how their boxes are designed.
If one is designing just to make something pretty, that is not designing, it’s just decorating. One of my favorite quotes is from Hans Hofmann, an abstract expressionist: “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.”
So the next time someone tells you to “make it pop/sexy/pretty,” ask them what their message truly is, because you can’t cover up not having a concept with design. The latter should come from the first.
Image courtesy of Matthew Delaney