Minimalism in Design

History of Minimalism

It is often said less is more and even though this ideology is firmly permeated in the millennial outlook, it was put forward by German architect and the pioneer of the modernist architectural movement Mies Van Der Rohe in the early 1920’s. Born out of the industrial revolution as the detailing and ornamentation of the Victorian era was very difficult to achieve with machines. Finding its roots in the abstract art movement of 1917 Netherlands called ‘De Stijl’ which literally translates to ‘The Style’. In other words, this movement reduced art to simple geometric shapes of circles and squares and only used primary colours, and it continues to have a profound impact on architecture and design till date.


Ideologies in Different Cultures

Even though ‘De Stijl’ had a deep artistic impact on modernist design as we know it, minimalism has existed in many cultures throughout time. It is an integral design aesthetic of Swiss culture, Scandinavian culture, and no talk about minimalism would be complete without mentioning Japanese culture. In its most stripped-down definition, minimalism is about designers expressing only the most essential and necessary elements of a product or subject by getting rid of any excessive and, therefore, unnecessary components and features. The Scandinavians developed this ideology by observing the nature around them and using only those colour palettes in their designs whereas for the Japanese it is a direct extension of the zen philosophy of letting go of the unnecessary. 


Minimalism in Contemporary Design

In this day and age of over-information, it is easy to get overwhelmed with our virtual surrounding and that directly seeps into our physical environment. Clutter is chaotic, so it’s expected that the minimalist approach to interior design stresses order and neatness. This is distilled further in furniture and product design, getting rid of the unnecessary elements to accentuate the clean lines, natural looking material, and subdued colours schemes. However, just because the ideology calls for bare subdued aesthetic does not mean that there isn’t any scope for detailing. Detail is the god of modernist movement and by extension the minimalist design ideology. This detail oriented subdued aesthetic is the most dominant trend in furniture and product design today.

This ideology dictates majority of the design in the contemporary scene today. Minimalism is everywhere around us. We find it in our physical environment in the furniture we use, especially brought to the everyday consumer market by the Swedish giant IKEA which embodies the Scandinavian ethos of minimalism in its truest sense and its Japanese counterpart Muji. Our technology has evolved from the clunky Cassette Plasticism of the 90’s to the sleek devices and the minimal graphic interfaces in the virtual environments we use today. Its influence is so far reaching that this design ideology has transcended into a lifestyle, a lifestyle that emphasises simplicity, organising your thoughts and environments to eliminate chaos, and finally attain clarity.


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