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Five Principles for Minimal Design

Five Principles for Minimal Design

Minimalism in design has been engrained within my thinking ever since I was introduced to the work of Dieter Rams. He revolutionised industrial design in the 1950s and 60s through his ideology of ‘less, but better’, resulting in his highly influential and ever inspiring Ten Principles for Good Design, which he exemplified throughout his career with Braun and Vitsœ.

Through running Minimalissimo, I have been introduced to many projects that epitomise quintessential minimalism, as well as projects that really push the boundaries of what may be considered minimal. I have also been introduced to projects that claim to be minimal, but quite frankly, are anything but. I can now say with a fair degree of certainty what constitutes minimal design and what doesn’t, which I hope is reflected well in my curation of Minimalissimo.

As I work with digital design on a daily basis as well as tangible product design in the near future, I have decided to ask myself a question similar to what Rams asked himself in the 1970s: what is minimal design?

I have tried to answer this question as best I can through the following five principles:

  1. Minimal design is a byproduct of simple design

    Simplicity is at the core of anything that represents minimalism. A simple approach to design is the only way to find its purest form.
  2. Minimal design is understated

    It is quiet, restrained, and modest, yet expresses elegance and refinement through detail.
  3. Minimal design exposes its essence to communicate its value

    For a design to be appreciated, it must focus on the essential aspects. It must be devoid of unnecessary features in order to make it as clear and understandable as possible.
  4. Minimal design is geometric

    Its composition reflects pure and well-structured forms to emphasise precision and intentionality of its development.
  5. Minimal design is a balance of form and function

    By means of a well-executed build, it demonstrates the importance of aesthetics without compromising its core functionality and usefulness.

These principles are first and foremost, for my own reference. However, I do think product designers who choose to adopt a minimalist approach to their work could benefit from these principles too. I feel that if we can adhere to these ideals in a collective sense, in conjunction with the fundamental ten created by Rams, we can produce even better design.

Carl MH Barenbrug
Creative Director
Minimalissimo
Cofounder
Minimalism Life
Cofounder
Mnmllist
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I'm Carl MH Barenbrug, a multidisciplinary maker and creative director currently living in Edinburgh. I run a small independent magazine called Minimalissimo, which is dedicated to minimalism in design—a passion of mine that extends to a lifestyle. I strongly believe that better design is simpler design. From the approach, to the function, to the aesthetic.

I also run a couple of other collaborative side projects called Minimalism Life and Mnmllist, and I'm always open to work on something new.

If you’d like to hire me as a consultant for a particular project, please get in touch.