The Internet of Things and the Age of Consumerism have left us all overwhelmed, tired and in need of a break. Efficiency has become an obsession for our culture, specifically for people living in cities. Maximizing every minute of the day is the new way of living and working. Vacations are never long enough, weekends are always too short and the overloading of content and technology has resulted in the need for simplification. In today’s culture, the rise of the Minimalist aesthetic is seemingly influenced by the sense of imbalance and oversaturation individuals feel from excessive information consumption from the internet age.
Having a clean palette in your fashion, in your home, in your brand has become an increasing trend for city dwellers, seeking peace amongst the chaos. I, like most designers, have always been enamored by the Minimalist aesthetic, after studying designers like Paul Rand, Piet Mondrian and Zaha Hadid. As with all trends, this design style has been served up to and consumed by the masses, leaving the intent behind of the style lost in translation. What was once a design style that was thoughtful, balanced and clean had turned into thoughtless, cold, and commercial. The loss of the intent has damaged the style as a whole. +
Minimalism is defined by all things pure: a palette of black and white, architectural clean lines, cool tones, organic textures, such as metals, concretes, and open space. Minimalism highlights the beauty of shape and form, removing any excess detail from the space. The essence of this style highlights the flow of a space, the form of an outfit, the abstracted energy of the art. The viewer is asked to question spatial relationships, positive and negative space, shape and form. Negative space is a key defining characteristic of Minimalism.
Modernism opened the door for Minimalism in the 1940’s, and the style started to flourish through the 1950s and 1960s (Think the advertising age, and Mad Men). An attraction to simpler spaces was born, with minimal interiors introducing balance in someone's life, to contrast with one’s hectic job. This balance helped to create a clear separation between life at work and at home. But today, work and home are often synonymous, as are the aesthetics in those places. Companies of all sizes are increasingly pushing for open concept, deleting cubicles, exposing beams and piping, using raw concrete on a floor. ++
The Designer’s Role
As the value of design grows prolifically in society due to the rise of startups and product design, designers and their lives are suddenly put in the spotlight; designers are becoming the new trendsetters. Social media has opened the window into artists' intimate settings in their homes and hangs. What was once an inherent design sensibility for creatives is now a mainstream standard. Minimalism is one of the key principles that all designers learn in school, and it has now become as ubiquitous in society as Toyotas. Minimalism is one of the core values of design because it is important to learn how to reduce a design to it’s simplest form, to create a clear focus and intent for the audience. For all design, digital and product, form and function should exist harmoniously together to create beautiful, functional design. Society has an unfortunate tendency to misappropriate the sentiment of thoughtful design styles.
Need Supply, Uniqlo and even Yeezy himself have all started to embrace the “less is more” trend in fashion. Even H&M jumped on the Minimalism train with their clothing brand COS. People used to express themselves through fashion, but because of the consumerism overload in fashion, consumers are collecting understated basics to define their style. The trend towards a timeless wardrobe has been turned into the new standard for fashion. It is also more economical to purchase basic and staples, and spend money on a few statement pieces. Need Supply and Common Projects are most successfully leading that charge with their black white and all neutral palettes. +
Once Minimalism was mainstreamed, the sentiment was lost. As with most trends, once stores introduce the style to the public and pair it with key influencers, consumers consume without thinking – Urban Outfitters, Kinfolk and H&M being some of the worst enablers. Minimalism may mean something different to a designer than to an average consumer, but those who can appreciate it can feel the value of the simpler life Minimalism promotes amidst the chaos. The thoughtless appropriation of Minimalism has left the style feeling generic and overdone to the design world and "the new" standard to the masses. The rise of the hipster, and the gentrification of neighborhoods, has created minimalist hipster paradises like Williamsburg in NYC, H Street in DC or Pacific Heights in San Francisco. Hopefully the style will regain its integrity and people will use it the way it was meant to be.