Using negative space and clean lines can help brands cut through the noise. But what does it take to craft a minimalist design?

Branding is a direct and immediate way for companies to communicate with their audiences — and there are as many graphic design styles as there are designers. However, a few tried and true methods have stood the test of time, helping brands new and old define their identities and stand out from the crowd. 

One approach, called minimalism, has been popular since the 1960s and 1970s, but its roots go back further to cultural traditions in Scandinavia and Japan. In terms of web and logo development, minimalism means paring down images and text to their bare bones. It eschews complexity and clutter in favor of simplicity. 

Minimalism is seeing a resurgence in 2019, and brands that embrace its clean, fresh aesthetic have the chance to create a lasting impact. Here’s how companies can learn from minimalist design and make its principles work for them.

But First, What Exactly Is Minimalism?

Most people are familiar with the phrase, “less is more” — that’s minimalism in its most basic sense. Designers use this approach to convey only the most essential, getting rid of any unnecessary distractions. Far from being boring, however, minimalism can use negative space and bright pops of color to build a cohesive, eye-catching narrative.

For example, men’s healthcare company Hims embraces minimalist web design and packaging. Hims uses neutral backdrops to highlight striking yet simple images and text, which complements the brand’s focus on clarity and convenience. Even the name “Hims” is short and memorable. 

Photo: Hims

Minimalism is all around us, but it comes in many different forms. A subset of minimalism, often termed “neo-minimalism,” offers an innovative take on the style’s classic tenets. This approach adds flashy colors and bold fonts to simplified design. The result is accents that pop and messages that linger.

Zero, for instance, uses a slash of strong red against a deep black background to create an eye-catching effect. The company’s focus is to help consumers quit smoking, and their striking web design and packaging supports this mission. Zero lets its simple brand name and strategic use of color do the talking, while adhering to the fundamental principles of minimalism.

Photo: Zero

Making Minimalism Your Own

A minimalist approach can work for anything from web design to packaging to logos. The key is to start with simple, geometric shapes and one or two distinct colors. Shapes like circles, squares, and triangles can be combined or altered in order to create a unique — yet uncluttered — effect. Bold typography also helps add vibrance to an otherwise pared down aesthetic. 

Minimalism works especially well with logo design, as these images have to make a big impact in a small amount of space. Most brands opt for a single or two-tone color scheme, which creates the right balance between simplicity and nuance. Designers can also play with common lines and shapes to represent letters, objects, or animals.

In terms of web design, focusing on negative space is key. This removes distraction and shifts the focus to only the essential. Take watch company, Tinker. The white or black space on their site far outweighs the small, captivating pops of color, especially on their product pages.

Photo: Tinker

Another important aspect minimalist graphic design is the use of flat design. As opposed to skeuomorphism, which employs raised surfaces and shading to make images look more real, flat design uses a direct, 2-D aesthetic. This approach helps to simplify the image by removing depth and other unnecessary features. Many brands have embraced flat design, but NYC real estate company StreetEasy has used it particularly well in their clever infographics.

Photo: StreetEasy

According to Claude Debussy, “music is the silence between the notes,” and the same can be said for design. It’s what brands don’t put down on the page that highlights their distinct identity and unique vision. By removing the excess, minimalism helps companies become more connected to their mission and the audiences they hope to reach.

Author Alexa Kwiatkoski

After studying creative writing at Johns Hopkins University, Alexa went on to teach English in France. She then worked as a copywriter for a student exchange company for several years, where she had the chance to lead high school programs to both Poland and the South of France. In her current role at L&T, she writes and manages social media for a variety of clients on topics ranging from healthcare to logistics. When she’s not creating transformative content for L&T, Alexa loves to explore New York City, play board games, and travel to new places.

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