Minimalism and simplicity may appear to be synonyms, but they are not.
Simple things are easy to recognize, understand, and remember. For example, a simple puzzle game that has few twists is easy to solve but a complex one with a lot of turns and twists is not. Similarly, a dumbed down article in Scientific American is easy to understand because it is targeted at common masses, but a scientific paper with highly technical details is as hard to comprehend as digging your way through a mountain with bare hands.
Minimalism has quite a few features of simplicity, but it’s an entirely different concept. While simplicity is aimed at the general masses with average knowledge, minimalism is an art that is created by and for the people who understand the core laws of the art being produced.
Therefore, “Minimalism describes [...] various forms of art and design, especially visual art and music, where the work is stripped down to its most fundamental features and core self expression.”
It’s impossible to create truly minimalistic art unless you know its very basic traits and core principles.
In web design world, the term ‘minimalistic design’ is thrown around carelessly.
Minimalism = Less clutter = Less distractions = More time focusing on the important stuff.
But do all minimalist designs work with this principle in mind? Do you not feel that in some cases, a designer has just thrown a few divs together and dubbed his theme minimalist?
Minimalistic design is not about producing the same fundamental black and white typography-based layouts over and over. It’s about creating unique layouts the same way as any other form of deign. Only it’s much harder because there are not a lot of choices at a designer’s disposal.
It’s funny that when a designer creates a design with plenty of graphics, he takes his time and tries to be as creative as possible. But when the same designer creates a ‘minimalistic design’ he quickly slaps together a few basic divs and viola!
It’s impossible to give hard and fast rules about what makes a minimalistic design, but remember that a minimalistic design contains all the important features necessary for a functional web site. You can add as many new features to your design as you want (widgets, extravagant graphics etc.), but they are not required for your design to function properly.
The only ‘rule’ I’ll emphasize is: Clarify your purpose with the design and make sure it represents your purpose in the clearest and purest way.
My goal with this blog is to focus on the content and community. So my content area contains the content and nothing else. However, in the side bar I’ve plenty of stuff to highlight community involvement on Blogging Bits.
At first sight, my sidebar may look a bit cluttered to you, but it does exactly what I want it do, without bloating my design.
So a minimalistic design is not simple, featureless, and boring. But it’s a design that does the job it’s given using least possible resources, and showing only the most fundamental elements, with utmost elegance.
For more on what constitutes a minimalistic design, check out The Anatomy of a Minimalistic Web Design by Steven Snell.
How do you classify your design: Minimalistic, simple, or bloated?