Simple doesn’t mean primitive. Less isn’t vague. Short doesn’t say little. Air doesn’t equal emptiness. In the book The More of Less, Joshua Becker said,
“You don’t need more space. You need less stuff.”
Minimalism is often discussed nowadays in different spheres of life and work, and diverse directions of design are not the exception. In diverse spheres of visual arts, the key principle of minimalism was leaving only an essential part of features to focus the recipient’s attention as well as support general elegance. Working in this style, designers seek to make the interfaces simple but not empty, stylish but not overloaded. The line dividing
simple and primitive is very thin.
The main features of minimalism often mentioned by designers include Simplicity, Clarity, Expressive visual hierarchy, High attention to proportions and composition, Functionality, Big amount of spare space, High attention ratio, Typography, and Eliminating non-functional decorative elements.
Applied wisely, minimalism helps users to see the core elements of the interface and makes the user journey intuitive and purposeful. Main points to consider can be described with the following practices.
Flat design. Flat images usually use fewer elements and curves, avoid highlights, shadows, gradients, or textures. This approach allows creating images, buttons, icons, and illustrations which look neat in different resolutions and sizes. It lets designers enhance usability and visual harmony of user interfaces.
Monochrome or limited colour palette. Colour can set both informative and emotional links between the product and the user. Designers working in minimalism tend to take the maximum from colour choices, they limit colour palette to monochrome or minimal set of colours. Such an approach is efficient in interfaces concentrating users’ attention on particular actions like buying, subscribing, donating, starting to use etc.
Bold and expressive typography. Typography in minimalistic design is seen as one of the core visual elements of not only informing users about the content but also setting the style and enhancing visual performance. Fonts and typefaces are seen as a strong graphic element contributing to general elegance and the emotional message it sends.
Choice limitation. Being focused on functionality and simplicity, the pages and screens of this kind don’t usually overload users’ attention with decorative elements, shades, colours, details, motion, so in this way, they support high attention ratio and often let users quickly solve their problems and navigate through the website or app.
Prominent theme visual elements. Working on minimalist UI, designers do not apply many images, but those which are chosen to be used are really prominent, catchy, and informative to set the required mood instantly. The photo or illustration itself has to follow the principles of minimalism, otherwise, the choice of the wrong image can ruin all the layout integrity.
Concise and intuitive navigation. Designers have to prioritize the elements rigorously in order to show only the elements of the highest importance. There are different techniques to hide the part of navigation, but doing this, it’s vital to ensure that users will find what they need easily.
Adding air and using negative space. In minimalism, white spaces are one more effective way of adding elegance and marking out the core elements. Also, in terms of monochromatic or limited colour palette, white or negative space plays a big role in creating enough contrast and supporting legibility.
Grids. Grid system in minimalist interfaces can be effective for making the layout look highly-organized, especially if the website presents a lot of homogenous content. Another benefit is that grids are responsive-friendly.
Contrast. Following the philosophy of limits and simplicity, minimalism depends much on contrast as a tool of good visual performance. The choice of colours, shapes and placement are often based on the contrast as the key feature.
Well, it’s easy to see that minimalism has a great number of benefits and presents a good approach in creating user-friendly interfaces. However, it doesn’t mean that minimalism should be applied everywhere: every goal should be achieved by the proper means. One thing is for sure: the more minimalistic is the interface, the more time and effort the designer should invest to make it clear and functional. Elegance and beauty of minimalism
should support the global aim of providing positive user experience.