Minimalism and simplicity are not new concepts in culture, yet many people have lost sight of the elegance that comes with such simple and intelligent design. To some, new technology may bring about the thinking that more is better, perhaps trying to squeeze every ounce of interesting from every aspect with multiple overlapping colors, textures, themes, etc. But all of that can distract from the message that is trying to be conveyed, and thankfully it appears that many are catching on. Many of those that have taken notice seem to associate these concepts with modern design. Clean, minimal, pure, fresh, simple… these are all the buzz words and tags you can see now a days to describe website themes, elements, imagery, logos, as well as branding and print materials since business .
However, though these trends have become more popular lately, I would argue though that they are not “trends” but truths.
Minimalism and simplicity has been a theme of design for a long time now, being utilized in architecture, print, fine art, and various other outlets. It has become a tried and true concept to make subjects pop and deliver messages effectively. Many prominent modern design companies wholly embrace this concept and exploit it as a part of their own identity, but in reality this has been utilized for generations:
Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.
-Leonardo da Vinci
There is no greatness where there is not simplicity, goodness, and truth.
The greatest ideas are the simplest.
-William Golding, Lord of the Flies
I believe it’s pretty safe to say that simpler is better. There’s an inherent attractive quality that one experiences when being able to interpret and mentally complete the image of a logo, an artwork, a website, etc. It conveys intelligence, whether consciously or subconsciously, and rewards a person in s subtle way that makes a connection. When you can take a complex idea, break it down to its simplest form, and still convey the same message or more, that is truly powerful.
Simplicity also applies to choices and structure in business. It’s proven that if a client has to many options before them when choosing a service or product, they begin to shut down or become disengaged. Most-likely they are not there to work for their needs, that’s what you as a business are for. In order to sell more, there needs to be less choices or stopping points. Simple customizations, and few options are key in converting potential buyers into happy customers. When given the choice between 3 options, a high, mid, and low price point, most people go for the middle (not too cheap, not to pricy, just right). But if you introduce say 6 or 10 options and then customizations, a large group of people actually never convert to the sale because they get overwhelmed or too busy or distracted.
Think about professional photos, especially portraits, or headshots. There’s usually just one clearly defined subject, with a simple background that’s blurred out of focus or a has clean gradient backdrop that enhances the mood. In most case just one light is the main source (or key light), with a fill or hair light, but not dozens of lights coming from different directions (but of course in other forms of photography this may be exactly what is needed for a particular photo). And think about how impactful a black white photo can be. The color is stripped and simplified into a monochromatic interpretation, and if done right is more moving than color. Less can be so much more.
And then there’s the interwebs… Remember flash based websites with fancy into videos, too many colors, and dancing bears? Companies eventually figured out that most people don’t want to wait for something to “initialize” with techno music playing over various sensory overload, and people don’t care that a button makes a futuristic sound when you hover it or click it. How about background music on websites? It usually takes me about half a second to immediately turn off the tunes or scream in panic as I desperately try to find the stop button and silence the badly written acoustic guitar music. Unless your a music artist, DON’T put background music on your website. If someone wants to listen to music while surfing your site, they’ll play it themselves, in their own player, because they are not there to listen to your background music. Half the time, they’re probably at work anyway.
So in design, and really in much of life, simpler is better. It conveys truth. Simplicity sells. It’s beautiful and profitable.