Minimalism in Graphic Design _
Part Three of Four
Keep it simple.
In this, the third part of our series, we explore our favourite minimalist graphic design examples from 2023 and uncover the movement’s 20th century roots.
From the top…
As we’ve discussed over the last few posts, minimalism is a design philosophy that emphasizes simplicity, restraint, and functionality. It has been around for centuries, but it really came into its own in the early 20th century with the Bauhaus movement.
The German art school was founded in 1919 and the school’s philosophy was based on the idea that form should follow function. This dictated that designs should be simple, elegant, and easy to use.
The Bauhaus movement had a profound impact on graphic design with many of the principles of minimalism that we see today being developed by Bauhaus designers. These principles include:
- Simplicity: Minimalist designs are simple and uncluttered. They only use the essential elements to communicate their message.
- Restraint: Minimalist designs are restrained and understated. They avoid using unnecessary decoration or embellishment.
- Functionality: Minimalist designs are functional and easy to use. They are designed to be clear, concise, and easy to understand.
(Image courtesy Herbert Bayer – “Schlesisches Heim”)
Too far? The rise of ‘Blanding’
Over the past five years, there has been a growing trend of luxury brands adopting minimalist branding. This trend has been dubbed “blanding” by some critics, who argue that it is leading to visual homogenisation and a loss of historic, unique identities.
The rise of blanding has various drivers, one being General (Visual) Noise. Brands are responding to societal and political turbulence, creating a ‘chaos tonic’. Another driver is the ubiquity of social media and its enablement of consumer brand comparisons and the building of brand affinity. Brands are trying to create a more consistent and unified brand identity across all channels, one that aligns with their neighbouring or aspirational brands.
What now? Graphic Design that we love
As minimalism continues to develop and refine, many brands are bringing us cutting edge graphic design from a minimal perspective. Here we explore our favourite recent examples of 2D and brand design that are grounded in the principles set out by the Bauhaus movement:
1) Murat Yumak by Navarra
An archive to display and sell sought-after vintage items, we love the approach Navarra have taken to Murat Yuma’s eponymous platform. Taking inspiration from galleries and museums, this minimalist vintage market breaks the mold of other e-commerce sellers and allows the product featured to take centre stage. The main objectives of the platform are to Archive, Preserve & Exhibit – this is all about honouring ‘holy grail’ product and utilises 20th century Swiss type design, pared back layouts and tactile materials.
One of our favourite things about the project is the consistency across touchpoints, specifically the attention to detail brought to the packaging of products once they have been purchased. This holistic design approach is functional and visually pleasing, with brown cardboard materiality, branded tape and personable tone-of-voice; all the products are described as ‘objects of desire’.
(Images courtesy of Navarra)
2) Channel 4 refresh by Pentagram
Channel 4 has rebranded! Or refreshed? The UK’s public service broadcaster has unveiled an updated identity that is designed to be more modern, inclusive, and creative. The refresh was led by Pentagram, the renowned multi-disciplinary design studio, and it features a new (familiar) logo, custom sans-serif typeface, and concise colour palette.
Its a bold and confident step forward for the brand and creates a cohesive presentation across brand facets that’s both attractive and functional. This refresh is a clear sign of the channel’s ambition to be a creative leader in the digital age, and utilises a modern, refreshing branch of minimalist design. We love the series of lockups that have been created, ensuring the 4 logo appears consistently across touchpoint and uses, no matter the subsequent wording. Due to its minimalist approach, this refresh has a timeless quality that should last the brand for a few years to come.
(Images courtesy of Pentagram)
3) TO Skincare by Yuta Takahashi Design Studio Co.
Luxurious, considered, mysterious; three words that describe the branding for Japanese skincare newcomer: TO. This darkly minimalist brand created by Yuma Takahashi features an aesthetic inspired by ‘the life and mystery of the cosmos and the meditative experience of the spirit’. We love the ethereal, simplistic line based logo mark – derived from ‘the surface of water, the sun, the moon and the beating of the human heart’. This brand evokes gravitas, whether its the mystic approach or the extremely limited, dark, colour palette, there’s a weight to the visual identity that’s been crafted to the Bauhaus ideals of Simplicity, Restraint and Functionality.
We love the subtle, branded foiling that repeats the logo around the perimeter of the box, an almost subliminal nod to the brand that compounds the luxurious aesthetic created.
TO have also teamed up with Sound Couture Inc., where they invite customers to ‘awaken to the inevitable rhythm’, crafting a ‘soundspa’ experience that allows customers to immerse themselves in meditative sounds. This extra offering builds affinity while communicating the relaxing, nurturing nature of this holistic brand.
(Images courtesy of Yuta Takahashi Design Studio Co.)
4) AIR Company
AIR COMPANY, a carbon utilisation company that strives to drive planetary change, they’re all about using cutting-edge technology to tackle Earth’s excess CO2 head-on, transforming it into carbon-negative alcohols and fuels.
The clever use of white space, uncluttered design, and crisp photography style reflects the brand’s strong dedication to sustainability. These elements elegantly showcase the products and communicate the brand’s environmentally responsible values with clarity and grace whilst creating an aura of purity.
This design approach totally captures the essence of sustainability and the values of a minimal lifestyle. The clean lines and uncluttered aesthetics in the brand’s design work reflect the message that simplicity can lead to a more sustainable lifestyle.
(Images courtesy of Air Company)
5) Debrecen city of culture identity
This identity employs a carefully curated selection of elements to craft a visually captivating and powerful campaign. By incorporating straightforward shapes and a vibrant colour palette, it achieves a clean and uncluttered aesthetic that emits sophistication and energy.
The clever arrow details serve a dual purpose. Not only do they form an integral part of the visual brand, but they also function as navigational guides, seamlessly directing the user’s eye around the layout. It’s a brilliant fusion of form and function, bringing the entire design to life.
The choice of a geometric sans-serif font proves to be the perfect match. Not only does it ensure legibility, but it also harmoniously complements the illustrations and layout style.
This brand showcases the power of minimalistic graphic design—a harmonious blend of purposeful elements that create an eye-catching, memorable, and effective identity. It serves as a testament to the idea that simplicity, when executed thoughtfully, can truly result in a masterpiece.
(Images courtesy of Debrecen)
In July, we will be delving into the world of minimalism including its drivers, how minimalism is translated into the graphics and retail space and concluding by exploring minimalism’s wider impact.
Part Three – Minimalism in Graphic Design (You are here!)
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