Minimalism and its Relation to Design

Vidhunnan Murugan
7 min readNov 6, 2019

How Minimalism has affected design, our lifestyle and the way of using materials over these years.

In the late 1950s, an art movement was developed in NewYork, the USA knows as Minimalism. It was a simplified form of art which was created by using or reducing to minimal colours, shapes, lines, textures or materials. It was an extreme form of abstract art and composed of simple geometric shapes like rectangle and square. It was expressed as the form of the object and by its material or medium. It was also related to conceptual art, a contemporaneous style in the way of artworks was finished. The artworks in Minimalism allowed the viewers to experience them without any distractions. As minimalism in the 1960’s and now were express completely in a different form but still the idea and philosophy are the same. It influenced many fields all around the world and changed over a period of time.

Frank’s Black Painting

Development of Minimalism

In 1950, Frank Stella started to work on his Black Painting(above) which was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in NewYork, 1959. After that exhibition, it began to turn away from the gestural art of the previous generations. Gestural was a term used to describe the freehand, continuous curve of simple strokes using brushes. In the 1960s and 1970s, Minimalism started to flourish with the many artists following the style. The artworks in Minimalism describes the simplicity in both content & form by removing any form of personal expressions.

Title of the Movement

When Minimalism was started, it didn’t have a common name between artist. It was called by multiple names such as A.B.C. art, Reductive Art, literalism, systemic painting and Art of the Real. Even the famous Minimalism artist Donal Judd was not happy with the name Minimalism and he termed the movement as “Specific Objects”. Eventually, they stuck with Minimalism, because it is the best way to describe the artwork with the use of minimal colours, shapes, lines and textures.

Idea and Philosophy

Minimalism is defined as the concept of minimising distractions from what’s truly valuable or essential.

Frank Stella said, “What you see is what you see “. This means artworks does not have any inner meanings to it, what you see is what it is. Minimalism expresses that the artworks should have purely visual-response and strong pure qualities of colour, form, space and materials.

Concepts and Styles

The types of Minimalism artworks was can be divided into 3 major types like sculpture, paintings and light installations in the beginning stage. After a few years when it started, it no longer existed into a single cohesive style and developed into many fields. Many artists changed their style to a unique and personal style and moved in their own direction. Even though being different, new ideas and styles started to conquer the emerging world.

Minimalism in Design

Minimalism in graphic, web or motion design or even architecture has three characteristics: Repetition, simplicity and voids. As a design concept, minimalism is described by the idea that less is more. As it had started to influence many design fields such as graphic design, web design, typography,

Apple’s iPhone X Packaging

motion design, architecture, even print and packaging also. Minimalism has also influenced many designs in our daily life which we see or interact with. Apple’s packaging is completely influenced by minimalism as it only has essential elements to show on the box of their products.

Minimalism in Typography

With the evolution of typography, minimal typefaces have more importance in design elements. Typography does not hold back at designing a minimal typeface or reduced typeface, but it also affects many parts of design like

web, graphics and motion. Minimalism, in this typeface, is basically a simplified version of all the alphabets. Minimal fonts were based on the qualities like clean lines, geometric shapes, straightforward, visual impact and removal of any decorative or elements on it. In simple terms, minimal fonts are sans-serif or fonts which are formed using limited shapes.

Minimalism in Web Design

As in web design nowadays, Minimalism plays a vital role. Here Minimalism is achieved by reducing to essential design elements. It is also described by certain rules like

  1. Less is more,
  2. Subtract until it breaks,
  3. Every detail counts,
  4. Minimal colour,
  5. White space is vital,
  6. Big typography and
  7. Simple geometric shapes.

Google’s home page or Google’s search page is the best example of minimalism in today’s web design.

(Unfortunately, I had lost the credits for this image)

Negative Space is key to any minimalist design. Negative space is simply having a gap between the visual elements.

The more negative space around an object, the more the eyes are drawn to it.

Negative space is also called white space, but sometimes it may not be white. Instead of white, some website uses some colours to create attention for the visual elements in the blank canvas. It is about limiting ourselves to the essentials of design like using negative space, bold typography & few icons.

Typography in web design especially for a minimalist design is the first impression for a user before he/she clicks on anything or even read a single word on the site. Typography also has a play that drives the user into the site and tells the user about the site about or the company or the individual who owns it as you can see in the big typeface is used instead on images it creates more attention than an image and creates more graphic content. Instead of images in the design, combining the negative space and big typography grabs more attention when compared to the traditional web design principles and even compared to site has images.

Minimalism in Motion Design

As design goes around the world, Digital design Came in conquering the entire media industry. As minimalism also influences the media in different forms like digital and print and even videos. In motion design, minimalism is influenced in many categories like explainer videos, kinematic typography, advertisement, promotions and many more. As minimalism tells to limit essentials things or design elements on a screen.

The original video has a silhouette of a person and product which is an iPod here. So it is Apple’s official iPod Commercial which only has silhouette and product and both in most contrast colours. The idea of this video just limited to 2 elements on the screen and designers played with those elements.

Apple’s video “Designed by Apple” also features minimalism in a way that how they made it transform or communicate their message to the audience. They used very limited design elements to animate the video and Communicate their message. The idea is to avoid using many elements or reduce to the essentials elements, which is exactly expressed in this video by using simple geometric shapes and text to tell the message.

Materialism and Minimalism

Materialism is the form of the objects or the surface of the objects how they are formed or how they feel while touching. Apart from design, Materialism is more common with Minimalism. Materialism and Minimalism have the same philosophy in the way of the viewer’s point, as what you see is what it is. The ideas and technique may differ from how the materials are formed.

As Minimalism says what you see is matters and Materialism says what you feel is matters. So they both express the material as it is. Materialism influences in many fields such as Packaging, Product Design, Interior Design, etc., In November 1968, Donal Judd (A minimalism artist) brought 101 Spring Street, NY which he planned to use for his residence and studio. As the building is designed by himself which implies many minimalism ideas and philosophy. The building itself tells about the Materialism via Minimalism as you can see through it.

Minimalism in Life

Minimalism has not only influenced design, music, fashion etc. but has also affected how people live their life. Minimalism in Life means having the bare minimum essentials to live life. It means reducing a lot of stuff in our life which are not required on a daily basis. According to minimalist, the world

was filled with so many things which affect the entire life of a person by having those things around them. The idea of minimalism or minimalist is the same, reduced or limit the things which you need to live your life.


Minimalism was a powerful art movement which changed design thinking, people’s perspective, materialism and many more.

Even though it influences many fields, Design was influenced in different ways throughout these years. As everything changes with time, Minimalism also changed from its original philosophy and ideology to different ones which are suitable for that time period. Even in future, it may change to its original or a different version of its philosophy or ideology.

This article is one of my term-end projects while I was doing my design course in Singapore at Orita Sinclair, School of Design & Music. This was written as an essay initially in my History of Design module, then I converted this into a Medium article.

Thank you for reading.



Vidhunnan Murugan

Product Designer at BigBasket | Creating meaningful experiences through design.