Many times since I began working in graphic design people have told me that my designs are minimalist. While in those times I definitely agree, I’m not sure that it’s good to be put into a category at all. Tim Brown discusses the differences of minimalism vs. simplicity in his most recent blog post. He explains that minimalism is a reaction to complexity, and reflects changes on the surface of things. Simplicity is the result of a deep understanding of the concept and organizing and paring down to only the necessary components. He references John Maeda as an expert on the topic of simplicity. Maeda is the President of Rhode Island School of Design and recently wrote a book called Laws of Simplicity. Haven’t read the book yet but just decided to get it on Amazon!
This is really interesting for me, since I’m learning a lot about my design sensibilities in this first semester of school. Minimalism does not necessarily represent simplicity, and simplicity does not necessarily represent minimalism. Sometimes when I’m designing something – postcard, book cover, type exercise, etc – I look at the composition and ask myself what can be taken away but maintain the strength of communication? Is that minimalism or simplicity? Teachers and clients have described my style as minimalist so I wonder if that’s it. However, a composition can be both simple and minimalist. For example, I will post the type composition that I created a few weeks ago. This is a combination of the two, because only the necessary components are there and the strength of the message is not diminished by simplification of form. This was the class that Rick Valicenti was visiting and he liked it – he said he was ‘taking it home with him’.
I look forward to reading Maeda’s book when I have some free time. It looks like it applies mostly to product design but I know he’s done a lot of digital design and programming as well. Maybe it will shed some light on these concepts for me, because as refreshing as minimalism is sometimes given the constant bombardment of visual stimuli in our lives, it seems that simplicity is the next step and requires more in-depth exploration and a stronger concept.