When German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe coined the phrase, “less is more,” the concept of minimalism seemed to spread like wildfire. Though it was an artistic philosophy that was long developing, van der Rohe’s popularisation of the concept certainly affirmed its widespread placement in international artistic consciousness.
Half a century later, and we’re seeing minimal design applied to just about everything in the creative fields including art, architecture, fashion, packaging and interior design. And while “minimal design” is a relatively young concept and design approach, it has been developed, reiterated and copied time and time again.
Hence, CID asks industry experts, has minimal design come to a standstill? And perhaps more importantly, is it creatively blocked?
“Repetitions of an idea usually stem from an inspiring or perfect chief concept. Typically something that is deemed exemplary is copied, duplicated and repeated, therefore [being] a compliment of sorts.
On the other hand, I feel that there is a saturation of minimal design that has been diluted from the initial theory of ‘less is more’… which in theory strips a space down to its bare essentials,” explained Bruno Guelaff, design director, studio bruno guélaff.
Minimal design, founded on principles of purity and simplicity, was in part inspired by Japanese traditional design and the ever popular Zen philosophy. Minimal design is a concept where form follows function. Decorative elements are not only unwelcome, they contradict the concept itself. The idea, which centres on the bare essentials, requires design to focus on the item or space’s function, anything more is unnecessary.
However, we wonder with an apporach that appreciates the bare necessity: how minimal can one truly go? Amjad Al-Hajj, managing director, The Horologist, noted: “Minimal design is taking an object and stripping it from the things that are unnecessary, so there’s a certain limit you have to stop [at]—I don’t think it is standing still, I think it is adapting, but ultimately, it’s minimal…you only have so much to play with.”
While it may be true that minimal design is adapting, some still persist that many designs that are being labelled minimal aren’t actually minimal, but embody minimalistic façades that are ultimately lacklustre. Hence the feeling that minimal design is losing steam, which is fuelled by experiencing repetitive designs, is more of a mental folly.
“I think the biggest issue is that the term ‘minimal’ or ‘minimalist design’ has been so over played, that it has become redundant and pointless as a point of reference. [When] critics stereotype or label any work by artists, architects, sculptors, or designers as such, [they] often feel insulted by the use of the term,” explained Paul McElroy, partner, Kinnersley Kent Design, posing the question: “What does that say about the way in which we try to pigeonhole fields of work?”
Using the term “minimal design” has become the lazy go-to description for seemingly barren spaces. Whereas true minimal design is meant to inspire one to function within one’s means, not to deny one of items that serve a functioning purpose. And the overuse of the term “minimal design” has contributed to minimal design’s seeming creative block.