An Intro to Minimalist Web Design

By Tyler Keenan

a woman looking at a minimalist art display

Minimalist design is everywhere, and it’s especially popular among web designers. It’s easy to see the appeal: Many of minimalism’s core tenets mesh very well with the constraints of modern UI and UX design, especially on mobile devices.

A (Very Brief) History of Minimalist Design

Minimalism traces its origins back to the early twentieth century. Though we tend to associate it with media and design now, its origins lie in fields as diverse as architecture and painting. Here are a few early influences on the minimalist style:

  1. De Stijl. Dutch for “the style,” De Stijl was an artistic movement that celebrated simple, abstract shapes, bold primary colors, and straight lines. Piet Mondrian’s city grid-inspired paintings are a perfect encapsulation of De Stijl.
  2. Constructivism. The Constructivist style came out of early Soviet revolutionary art. Its goal was to create a new style of art that could create social change, rejecting the idea of “art for art’s sake.” The result was an aesthetic that communicated using a combination of strong, dramatic shapes, black-and-white photography, and bold typography.
  3. Bauhaus. The Bauhaus movement emerged from Germany in the 1920s and early 30s. It jettisoned styles associated with earlier eras in favor of practical, functional aesthetics. “Form follows function” is a maxim often associated with the Bauhaus, one that inspired the designs of visionaries like Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier.
  4. Zen simplicity. A final source of inspiration for minimalist design is in traditional Japanese aesthetics. Based on the tenets of Zen Buddhism, this style emphasizes clean forms stripped of flourishes and an emphasis on harmony, order, and balance. The stylized arrangements and attention to detail found in zen rock gardens captures the essence of Zen minimalism that countless designers have worked to emulate.

You can find traces of these different styles all over the modern web. As you’ve probably noticed, what ties all these styles together is a desire to remove extraneous elements, stripping everything down to its essential elements. If there’s an aphorism that best summarizes minimalism, it’s “Less is more,” from the architect Mies van der Rohe.

The Essential Elements

There’s no single definition of minimalist web design. It’s less a meticulously defined set of guidelines than a set of general principles that can be applied to any situation. That said, there are a number of features that are frequently (though not always) found across minimalist designs.

  1. The use of typography as a central element. While minimalism is often associated with iconic sans serif typefaces like Helvetica, Futura, and Univers, plenty of apps and sites also use more traditional serif typefaces to great effect. The key is that the type itself is as central to the look of a composition as shape and color.
  2. Deliberate use of white space. Rather than think of white (or negative) space as the lack of something, minimalism treats it as an element unto itself.
  3. Imagery reduced to geometric shapes. Strong iconography is a hallmark of minimalism, reducing a concept (like using a pictogram of a house for “home screen” or a trash can for “delete”) to Go to the full article.

    Source:: Business 2 Community

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