Personally, I aspire to inspire so I’d like to share a recipe that most designers are already well aware of and many people have adapted recently into their lifestyles. I want to talk about a movement called minimalism and I didn’t realize I had already subconsciously embraced this trend to bring more meaning to my life. To be a minimalist, you must live with less than 100 things, you can’t own a car or a home or a television, you can’t have a career, you must live in exotic hard-to-pronounce places all over the world, you must start a blog, you can’t have children, and you must be a young white male from a privileged background. Just kidding, or at least that’s what people who dismiss minimalism as a fad would say.
What is minimalism, really?
If I had to condense minimalism in a tidy, little, easy-to-digest elevator pitch, it’s a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing many material possessions in our path, we can all make room for the most important aspects: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution. A 20-year-old single guy’s minimalist lifestyle looks different from a 45-year-old mother’s minimalist lifestyle, but each path leads to more time, more money and more freedom.
Consumer purchases are relative to what we view as success, glamorous prestige and social status. If a man lives in Beverly Hills, drives foreign sports cars, wears brand name suits and makes a six figure income, he’s perceived as successful – or he comes from a wealthy family – but is he really happy?
Why not take advantage of all the inventions and luxuries that are available? Compulsory consumption is an addiction in American culture that’s encouraged by technology and the image projected by others’ social media profiles, and we’re prone to become dissatisfied with stuff after the shine wears off. Can money really buy happiness? Perhaps it depends on how much precious time is forsaken to acquire that money and if you use the cash on what matters most to you, because we all know there’s more to life than working and paying bills.
Examples of minimalism can be seen in recent years across global leaders in fashion, technology, art, architecture, interior design and web design. In this case, just because it’s minimalist doesn’t mean it’s cheap.
Quality over quantity
The pressure to buy after working for our hard-earned paychecks can burn us out as we climb the corporate ladder in a rat race hoping that we’ll finally find happiness. Images come to mind of people trampling over each other for Black Friday deals. Take a step back and let go of being attached to material things because it’s not important. Nobody wants you to become a Buddhist monk and throw the kids’ TV out the window, but to be more mindful of spending. Decluttering opens up much needed breathing room and investing in well-crafted quality products instead of cheap trash increases the likelihood of longevity. People are even turning to tiny houses now because it’s a more affordable alternative and they have more time to spend on family, travel, hobbies and/or meditation. That’s what life is about, isn’t it? You don’t want to look back in regret because you didn’t spend more time with your mom before she passed, didn’t make enough art to unwind or passed up paramount opportunities for travel.
There’s a different way; create your own template aside from the typical American dream portrayed on TV of what a good life is to you. Take some risks and spend some money on travel rather than designer clothes, Nordic home furnishings from Ikea or ordering the latest tech on amazon. Travel is good for the soul, it enhances creativity, broadens your perspectives and gives moment to remember. I’m not saying minimalism is easy – refocusing your mind takes responsibility and diligence to ‘sacrifice’ for a more fulfilling way of life. I still struggle in resisting a self-indulgent mentality to buy comfy throws and other frivolous knickknacks and donate clutter I’ve collected deep in my closet. People don’t want to get rid of material belongings because we’re conditioned to think that consumer goods make us feel more whole.
“Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”
– The Minimalists [Netflix Documentary]
Is your fashionable outfit out of trend from one year to the next? This is called fast fashion, and this notion translates to technology as well, hinting that what you have now is outdated and useless so you buy the next big thing.
Implications in Graphic Design
Minimalism goes hand in hand with simplicity; it’s clean, functional, clever and versatile enough to leave room for play. This movement has heavily influenced various industries, from graphic design and architecture to typography and furniture. In Cambrian College here in Ontario, my syllabus touched upon the pragmatic teachings of Bauhaus, an old German art school famous for a simple approach to design principles of form follows function, favoring utility over show. This inspired streamlined aesthetics, simplicity and practicality; key components of minimalism.
When branding companies, minimalism in logos can touch on negative space which can lead to optical illusions, tricking your eye to follow the lines that are no longer there. Here are modern examples of this without any colour:
When building websites, the full-width, horizontally scrolling slider at the top of the page gives site visitors a generous look at various products created by this modern technique. When designing an interior space, sleek and stylish nesting tables serve twice the purpose while saving space.
In terms of living minimally, It almost feels like I’m going against my own industry of advertising in betrayal as a graphic designer for what I’m talking about in this blog. I attend all of these marketing meetings and design ads of Photoshopped people and think of taglines for consumers to buy into, and here I am preaching against buying into what you’ve been told to buy. Unfortunately, I sometimes feel like I use people every day and I honestly become conflicted depending on the product or service. I think this exposure to the manipulation might be part of why so many minimalists are designers and marketing specialists.
Beware of Oversimplifying
All in all