The Evolution of Minimalistic Design

The Greeks always pondered whether there exists a factual description of beauty, or essence, as they called it. For instance, a triangle can be defined as any three-sided body the sum of all three angles of which is no more or less than 180 degrees. Add another side, however small, and the body ceases to be a triangle. Could there be a similar exclusive criterion to judge the beauty of a daisy?

The Greeks did eventually discover this essence, although only for rectangles. According to them, the most beautiful way to divide a line into two parts is to divide it such that the ratio of the longer part to the shorter part is equal to the ratio of the whole to the longer part. They called the ratio the Golden Ratio. Later, they based a substantial share of their art and architecture on this ratio. An example is the architecture of the Parthenon, the Greek monolithic temple, whose sides are in the Golden Ratio. Even Renaissance artists were in cahoots with each other about their use of it. A plethora of the era’s masterpieces relies on the ratio to amplify its aesthetic appeal.

Hans Holbein's Darmstädter Madonna, with a overlay showing the Golden Ratio

Today, we behold a new form of art. The rectangular canvases have shrunk, but no more are the bristles of wooden brushes dipped in sticky oils and smeared on them, because these canvases aren’t composed of threads or fibers, but glass. Humans have transformed the tools, but the art, the way we interact with it, what it inspires in us, remains unchanged. In constant flux though are trends, the cultures that create and consume it.

The Greeks could never seek a universal formula for the simple reason that it doesn’t exist. Art is subjective. Our notion of beauty wavers and often recurs with time. A 19th-century realist would’ve found Picasso’s cubism unintelligible. Both though changed the world, the world that then existed. Now both seem archaic. Today, Minimalism reigns.

Minimalism, as the name suggests, is a movement characterized by spareness. Omitted or stripped off are distractions and pretensions, and depicted are only the absolute essentials. However, Minimalism is not a recent school of thought. It began in the 1960s, and like any new, radical movement it was first misunderstood and decried. The art critic Barbara Rose perfectly summarized the bewilderment when she wrote:

“…spectators are chilled by its apparent lack of feeling or content. Critics, attempting to describe this new sensibility, call it Cool Art or Idiot Art or Know-Nothing Nihilism. That a new sensibility has announced itself is clear, although just what it consists of is not.” 

Of course, now we know what it consists of. Minimalism is founded on the philosophy of less is more. It echoes Da Vinci when he said: “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Its purpose is to achieve the most with the fewest number of things. And it seems more important today than ever. Minimalism is an excellent example of how styles can recur unexpectedly. It’s fascinating how a 50-year old trend seems ideal for mediums today, mediums that were inconceivable then. However, while it is fascinating, it is not surprising. Minimalism was conceived as a protest against consumerism – the relentless purchase or consumption of needless things. Today, consumerism is still widespread, but what we copiously consume is not physical but digital. Through the last decade, fed up of the clutter, the excess information that flooded our screens, we couldn’t help but become enamored of Minimalism. It dominates Modern Design because it offers us a momentary escape from the chaos.
Minimalism is founded on the philosophy of less is more.

When it comes to technology, Apple’s minimalistic design is peerless. Computers are undoubtedly one of humankind’s most revolutionary inventions. Such facilitators already existed – the Industrial Revolution bore machines that automated processes for more than half a century. However, these machines were fraught with inefficiencies. The computer seemed to have none. The computer was perceived as an artificial human brain, only exceptionally faster. Except that it resembled a monster. It came in a sturdy, large, ugly and unwieldy box. Its language of numbers was (still is, to be honest) cold, inhuman. Most people failed to realize its boundless potential for the simple reason that it was intimidating. Then Apple decided to make it.

Granted, computers did shrink, but they were still sturdy, ugly and unwieldy. Only engineers were interested in how many transistors had been soldered onto the processor. Artists desired a device that would allow them to work more efficiently and save their work neatly in one place. Accountants and receptionists desired a device that would spare them the labor of storing and processing data on paper. Engineers themselves desired a machine that would help them build better machines. Computers could do all of this. But would you want to use such an unwelcoming device in the first place? What about computers for personal use? Are devices this inhuman and unattractive worthy of being embraced as personal?

Apple’s were. It was Apple who made the box handy and stylish. While Apple’s computers were functional, they also sported a smile. They even greeted you with a “Hello”. Apple was a computer engineer with an artist’s temperament.

Compare the first computers with what we use today. How time flies.

Computers further shrunk but Apple’s philosophy was firm – design is as important as functionality. From Lisa to the MacBook Pro, from the iPod to the iPhone, from AirPods to the iWatch, its designs are sleek and gorgeous. Its elegant designs are held in such high regard that its products are described as pieces of art. Their secret? Minimalism.

The MacBook was incredibly fast and durable, but it was also small and light. The iPod was a library of music compressed into an object smaller than a matchbox. It had not more than five buttons. The iPhone, which, as a combination of different technologies, was a testament to Minimalism, also got entirely rid of the keyboard (and eventually of the home button as well). By getting rid of it, Apple spurred a revolution in convenience. Early keynotes showed clips of an iPhone held by a hand whose thumb could reach all four corners effortlessly. Even the much-beloved headphone jack had to depart. The iconic AirPods have now replaced it. Every product has been stripped down to its bare essentials. Today Apple offers a variety of colors, but initially it offered only two – the fundamentals – black and white. Their website and advertisements aren’t any different – backgrounds are monochromatic, products are large, distinct and the only objects in focus. The copy is to the point. Less indeed is more.

Meanwhile, applications too are now more tidy and pleasing to the eye because their elements are handsomely spaced. The text occupying the ample space is large and bare, but as it focuses solely on the brand’s core, it is remarkably potent. However, such a design is not just pleasing to the eye but to all senses. Minimalistically designed apps are by far the easiest to navigate. Great designs are those that don’t just look stunning but allow a user to achieve his or her goal in the least possible steps. Uber epitomizes such a design.

The mammoth transportation network company thrives on outstanding customer service, the foremost aspect of which is its app. Rarely customers encounter an app so easy to navigate. From search to confirm, it’s seamless.

Technology will continue to flourish, but it is design that will determine its accessibility. It’s no coincidence that two of the world’s leading corporations are also two corporations obsessed about design. This is how they changed the world. This is how they made a dent in the Universe. Of course, design isn’t confined to technology alone. Look around, it affects everything – from footwear, to houses; from book covers to murals in restaurants; from meal packages to staircases. The psychological effect every nuance arouses is profound. This is why you linger in some restaurants more than others. Often design is what brand loyalty hinges on.

The art on a restaurant's wall affects how long you stay there.

Lastly, calling Minimalism the ideal is an exaggeration. Tomorrow, something new, completely unprecedented awaits us. Another exciting art form, an even better way to design and brand. Perhaps an old trend will unexpectedly recur. Whatever it is, we strive to find it. We at Brandout believe it is this search for the new and better, for – as Proust called it – new eyes, that comprises true creativity. Tech and brands may come and go, so will cultural trends, but what great art inspires in us will remain unchanged.

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The Evolution of Minimalistic Design

The Greeks always pondered whether there exists a factual description of beauty, or essence, as they called it. For instance, a triangle can be defined as any three-sided body the sum of all three angles of which is no more or less than 180 degrees. Add another side, however small, and the body ceases to be a triangle. Could there be a similar exclusive criterion to judge the beauty of a daisy?

The Greeks did eventually discover this essence, although only for rectangles. According to them, the most beautiful way to divide a line into two parts is to divide it such that the ratio of the longer part to the shorter part is equal to the ratio of the whole to the longer part. They called the ratio the Golden Ratio. Later, they based a substantial share of their art and architecture on this ratio. An example is the architecture of the Parthenon, the Greek monolithic temple, whose sides are in the Golden Ratio. Even Renaissance artists were in cahoots with each other about their use of it. A plethora of the era’s masterpieces relies on the ratio to amplify its aesthetic appeal.

Hans Holbein's Darmstädter Madonna, with a overlay showing the Golden Ratio

Today, we behold a new form of art. The rectangular canvases have shrunk, but no more are the bristles of wooden brushes dipped in sticky oils and smeared on them, because these canvases aren’t composed of threads or fibers, but glass. Humans have transformed the tools, but the art, the way we interact with it, what it inspires in us, remains unchanged. In constant flux though are trends, the cultures that create and consume it.

The Greeks could never seek a universal formula for the simple reason that it doesn’t exist. Art is subjective. Our notion of beauty wavers and often recurs with time. A 19th-century realist would’ve found Picasso’s cubism unintelligible. Both though changed the world, the world that then existed. Now both seem archaic. Today, Minimalism reigns.

Minimalism, as the name suggests, is a movement characterized by spareness. Omitted or stripped off are distractions and pretensions, and depicted are only the absolute essentials. However, Minimalism is not a recent school of thought. It began in the 1960s, and like any new, radical movement it was first misunderstood and decried. The art critic Barbara Rose perfectly summarized the bewilderment when she wrote:

“…spectators are chilled by its apparent lack of feeling or content. Critics, attempting to describe this new sensibility, call it Cool Art or Idiot Art or Know-Nothing Nihilism. That a new sensibility has announced itself is clear, although just what it consists of is not.” 

Of course, now we know what it consists of. Minimalism is founded on the philosophy of less is more. It echoes Da Vinci when he said: “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Its purpose is to achieve the most with the fewest number of things. And it seems more important today than ever. Minimalism is an excellent example of how styles can recur unexpectedly. It’s fascinating how a 50-year old trend seems ideal for mediums today, mediums that were inconceivable then. However, while it is fascinating, it is not surprising. Minimalism was conceived as a protest against consumerism – the relentless purchase or consumption of needless things. Today, consumerism is still widespread, but what we copiously consume is not physical but digital. Through the last decade, fed up of the clutter, the excess information that flooded our screens, we couldn’t help but become enamored of Minimalism. It dominates Modern Design because it offers us a momentary escape from the chaos.
Minimalism is founded on the philosophy of less is more.

When it comes to technology, Apple’s minimalistic design is peerless. Computers are undoubtedly one of humankind’s most revolutionary inventions. Such facilitators already existed – the Industrial Revolution bore machines that automated processes for more than half a century. However, these machines were fraught with inefficiencies. The computer seemed to have none. The computer was perceived as an artificial human brain, only exceptionally faster. Except that it resembled a monster. It came in a sturdy, large, ugly and unwieldy box. Its language of numbers was (still is, to be honest) cold, inhuman. Most people failed to realize its boundless potential for the simple reason that it was intimidating. Then Apple decided to make it.

Granted, computers did shrink, but they were still sturdy, ugly and unwieldy. Only engineers were interested in how many transistors had been soldered onto the processor. Artists desired a device that would allow them to work more efficiently and save their work neatly in one place. Accountants and receptionists desired a device that would spare them the labor of storing and processing data on paper. Engineers themselves desired a machine that would help them build better machines. Computers could do all of this. But would you want to use such an unwelcoming device in the first place? What about computers for personal use? Are devices this inhuman and unattractive worthy of being embraced as personal?

Apple’s were. It was Apple who made the box handy and stylish. While Apple’s computers were functional, they also sported a smile. They even greeted you with a “Hello”. Apple was a computer engineer with an artist’s temperament.

Compare the first computers with what we use today. How time flies.

Computers further shrunk but Apple’s philosophy was firm – design is as important as functionality. From Lisa to the MacBook Pro, from the iPod to the iPhone, from AirPods to the iWatch, its designs are sleek and gorgeous. Its elegant designs are held in such high regard that its products are described as pieces of art. Their secret? Minimalism.

The MacBook was incredibly fast and durable, but it was also small and light. The iPod was a library of music compressed into an object smaller than a matchbox. It had not more than five buttons. The iPhone, which, as a combination of different technologies, was a testament to Minimalism, also got entirely rid of the keyboard (and eventually of the home button as well). By getting rid of it, Apple spurred a revolution in convenience. Early keynotes showed clips of an iPhone held by a hand whose thumb could reach all four corners effortlessly. Even the much-beloved headphone jack had to depart. The iconic AirPods have now replaced it. Every product has been stripped down to its bare essentials. Today Apple offers a variety of colors, but initially it offered only two – the fundamentals – black and white. Their website and advertisements aren’t any different – backgrounds are monochromatic, products are large, distinct and the only objects in focus. The copy is to the point. Less indeed is more.

Meanwhile, applications too are now more tidy and pleasing to the eye because their elements are handsomely spaced. The text occupying the ample space is large and bare, but as it focuses solely on the brand’s core, it is remarkably potent. However, such a design is not just pleasing to the eye but to all senses. Minimalistically designed apps are by far the easiest to navigate. Great designs are those that don’t just look stunning but allow a user to achieve his or her goal in the least possible steps. Uber epitomizes such a design.

The mammoth transportation network company thrives on outstanding customer service, the foremost aspect of which is its app. Rarely customers encounter an app so easy to navigate. From search to confirm, it’s seamless.

Technology will continue to flourish, but it is design that will determine its accessibility. It’s no coincidence that two of the world’s leading corporations are also two corporations obsessed about design. This is how they changed the world. This is how they made a dent in the Universe. Of course, design isn’t confined to technology alone. Look around, it affects everything – from footwear, to houses; from book covers to murals in restaurants; from meal packages to staircases. The psychological effect every nuance arouses is profound. This is why you linger in some restaurants more than others. Often design is what brand loyalty hinges on.

The art on a restaurant's wall affects how long you stay there.

Lastly, calling Minimalism the ideal is an exaggeration. Tomorrow, something new, completely unprecedented awaits us. Another exciting art form, an even better way to design and brand. Perhaps an old trend will unexpectedly recur. Whatever it is, we strive to find it. We at Brandout believe it is this search for the new and better, for – as Proust called it – new eyes, that comprises true creativity. Tech and brands may come and go, so will cultural trends, but what great art inspires in us will remain unchanged.

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