Creating Minimalist Designs Makes You a Better Designer

By / Feb 9, 2012 / Tips
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The trend of using minimalist designs has been with us for a while now. It seems like every day major design blogs publish a new gallery of great designs. But do minimalist designs actually mean anything to a designer? Can you become a better web designer by going the minimalist way or is it just a fad?

Actually, I do believe that it is a fad. But at the same time I also believe that you can learn a lot from it and use it to improve your skills significantly.

First of all, minimalist designs are here not without a reason. After the dark age of the ’90s (the dark age of web design, that is) came the year 2000 along with many Flash animations, fancy Photoshop graphics, and all kinds of other clutter. So finally after 20 years of noise a time of calm has come, bringing us this whole minimalism. People simply had enough off all the sites that were impossible to grasp and extremely user-unfriendly.

Minimalist designs change all that and provide a new, friendly environment. There’s nothing else on minimalist websites except for the things that absolutely need to be there. There’s no clutter and no confusion. And the sites are easy to grasp within the first 2 seconds of looking at them.

That is, of course, when done right.

So how can web designers use the trend of minimalism to improve their skills, and how to actually design a minimalist site properly?

Focus attention on the main element

Trend of Minimalism

Minimalist designs have very little elements incorporated into them. There’s simply no place for clutter or anything that is not essential to the site’s goal.

This forces designers to choose just one main element that will be the focal point of the whole site.

What can be such an element? It all depends on the site’s goals, but just to give you an example, let’s say that you’re designing a site for a new online service of some kind.

In such a case the main element would probably be the signup form. Consisting of a button, some screenshots, and short copy. You know that you can’t include too many things because the design is meant to be minimalist, so you only have place for the essentials. This will force you to think twice on what is really important for the site and what can be omitted.

Good designers are not the ones who can fill a whole site with stuff, but those who know how to select only the few important elements and forget about the rest.

Get those few elements right

Obviously, minimalist designs incorporate only a handful of elements to convey their message and convince visitors to take action (whatever action it might be).

This forces web designers to get those few elements just right. When working on a minimalist design you can devote more attention to each individual element. You also know that these elements need to be the best they possibly can. Because if they’re not then they’re going to stand out (in a bad way), as there will be nothing to cover them up.

Minimalist design is not about creating a site with just a few elements for the sake of it, but about using the smallest number of elements possible to reach a certain goal. Every element has its purpose in a minimalist design.

You know that you’re doing a good job if there are no more element you can remove without affecting the site’s ability to reach its goals.

Getting everything pixel perfect

This is a strictly graphics-related thing. Minimalist designs have to look exceptionally good. And in order to achieve this you have to make all elements pixel perfect (or at least try to).

Remember, there’s nothing to cover up this one elements that’s not so good looking. Everything needs to be nice or else your main element won’t be the one that’s the most visible … the ugly duckling will.

Crafting minimalist designs teaches you how to be pixel perfect. In fact, there’s no other way of creating a great minimalist design than by doing just that (whatever it might mean to you – there’s no one definition of “pixel perfection”).

Working on your typography

Typography is yet another element of minimalist designs, and probably one of the most important ones.

Since there’s not much to show on a minimalist website the text becomes an element on its own. That’s why choosing the right font, size and decoration is so crucial.

This is an area often neglected by many web designers. In some cases, Arial seems to be perfect for everything, but for minimalist designs it rarely is. Choosing the right font takes time and teaches you the basic rules of typography.

Every minimalist website needs to make a striking impression in terms of typography. If you just choose some random fonts the design won’t make much sense and the visitors will see this. Well, they probably won’t be able to name it, but they will notice.

Learning to use whitespace

Trend of Minimalism

Whitespace is one of those things that only the more experienced designers are not afraid to use. Many beginners feel that every piece of HTML real estate needs to be occupied by something, while it’s not the case at all.

When you’re creating a more complex design you get tempted to use every possible piece of space and fill it with that one more element. While it might work in some cases, it surely won’t work for minimalist designs.

Whitespace is yet another crucial element for minimalist designs. The sole fact that a minimalist design uses only a handful of elements forces us to space them out evenly on the site. They can’t just simply be placed all in one place.

The skill of using whitespace is somewhat volatile for web designers. Creating minimalist designs makes you simply better at using it, and this comes handy in every possible piece of design work imaginable.

Standing behind your opinion

In other words, believing that the work you’ve done is the absolute best you could do.

Here’s what I mean. If you’re a freelancer you might be reluctant about delivering a simple design. You might feel that your client won’t be so eager to pay if there are only a handful of elements on the website, and if the form is rather simplistic.

By sticking to minimalism you’re making your skin thick, and you’re learning how to stand behind your designs and be able to explain what their values are.

This is not a strictly design-centered skill, but it’s surely helpful in your freelance career.

Besides, once you learn how to explain the value of minimalist designs to your clients you’ll end up understanding them more yourself. So it’s a win-win scenario.

10 Minimalist examples

What follows is a set of 10 really nice minimalist designs for inspiration.

madebysofa.com

Trend of Minimalism

cargocollective.com/christopherose

Trend of Minimalism

fellswoop.com

Trend of Minimalism

madewithlove.be

Trend of Minimalism

thepokerclock.com

Trend of Minimalism

eutelnet.biz

Trend of Minimalism

soulwire.co.uk/hello

Trend of Minimalism

rodrigogalindez.com

Trend of Minimalism

theconsult.com

Trend of Minimalism

epidemialab.it

Trend of Minimalism

What do you think about the whole minimalist design fad? Do you think it’ll stick for more than a couple of years? What will follow?

About the Author

Karol K. is a freelance blogger and writer. He's passionate about design, blogging and online business. If you want to get a list of websites that pay to write feel free to visit him at YoungPrePro.

21 Comments

  1. Peter
    February 9, 2012

    Minimalism is not a fad, it’s a movement. Minimalism can be just as bad as grunge or etc, it does not guarantee improvement to your design skills. Also, your 10 examples are not minimalist. I hope this article is just one massive exercise to rick-roll us.

    Reply
    • Mel
      February 25, 2012

      I agree with Peter completely. I honestly believe minimalism is an attempt to restrain yourself from doing basically whatever you would want to do with your design. That seems so strange to me. Some minimalist designs are very well done, but that’s it. There is nothing superior about it.

      Reply
  2. Web Design Wolverhampton
    February 9, 2012

    Nice article, and some great examples, thank you (we especially like epidemialab.it)

    Reply
  3. Alex-Web design Ireland
    February 9, 2012

    I think minimalist designs are clean and straight to the point without any clutter, however, it may not be the best for all business type.

    Reply
  4. aledesign.it
    February 9, 2012

    A good article…perfect description. And axcellent examples. Thanks for sharing. I have all for build a good minimalist site!

    Reply
  5. Mark Smith
    February 9, 2012

    Great article and awesome useful app poker timer

    Reply
  6. Web design london – Evan Skuthorpe
    February 9, 2012

    good examples. couldn’t agree more with the title of this article.

    Reply
  7. Robin Cannon
    February 9, 2012

    Interesting piece. I agree with Peter that I wouldn’t necessarily consider all of the examples cited to be “minimalist”, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the most important aspect.

    Rather than saying “minimalism is great”, more worthwhile is the idea that a general understanding of minimalist concepts, and the ability to effectively implement them, can benefit a designer on a wider level. A good designer should be able to pull ideas from different design philosophies, and use them effectively across lots of different creative projects.

    Reply
  8. Martijn
    February 9, 2012

    I think minimalism is not a trend, it is a technique.

    Reply
  9. Kevin
    February 9, 2012

    Minimalism is hardly a fad. This article would have benefited with some actual research.

    Also, the 90s were not the dark ages of the web, it was a development stage. Early 2000s are FAR worse in my opinion…

    Reply
  10. Tom McCracken @NewEvolution
    February 9, 2012

    Excellent article! I loved: “Getting everything pixel perfect”

    Reply
  11. Jennifer Rapp Peterson
    February 9, 2012

    This is terrific. It is always what I stress when I talk to indie entrepreneurs. Don’t let the design interfere with/distract from your products. Your products should be the focus.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  12. Navigator Multimedia
    February 9, 2012

    I agree that getting a handle on minimalist design is a great exercise in becoming a better designer. If you pursue minimalist design projects with this attitude, then the lessons and challenges of “fewer elements” will hone your creativity. Be it a fad or a movement, there is something valuable in the aesthetic as a learning opportunity, so why not treat it like that?

    Thanks for the article,
    Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

    Reply
  13. Jenn Staz
    February 10, 2012

    I sure hope minimalist designs aren’t a fad. That is to say that probably the extreme ones may fade out, but I think this wave of minimalism will inspire cleaner, less cluttered designs overall. Win-win.

    Reply
  14. Alex
    February 12, 2012

    Minimalist design is definitely not a fad – in fact I would argue that it’s a trend that is here to stay. The clean, crisp and clutter free look is one that inspires. It’s definitely not easy to do – less is best but that does not necessarily translate into easier work for the designer!

    Alex
    Isadora Design

    Professional Website Design

    Reply
  15. Nik
    February 14, 2012

    How can an article THIS bad be trending on Linked-in?
    This is almost as ill-informed as a Smashing-magazine post.

    “What do you think about the whole minimalist design fad? Do you think it’ll stick for more than a couple of years?”

    … “a couple of years” … Are you *effen* serious?…

    Minimalism is a MOVEMENT. It predates the WEB. It predates YOU.
    Whether Websites keep using it is a moot point. Have a little RESPECT for something as critical to Design history as THIS. You probably think Bauhaus is just a FONT! I’m trying to be constructive, but when you call an entire chapter in Design history a FAD, it is justified to be ABUSIVE instead. I’m actually holding back.

    The least you could have done was check the wikipedia article to avoid sounding oblivious. Here, have a link; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minimalism

    And your examples show just how little grasp you have of the concept.
    Is there an EDITOR in the house? I would usually ignore a post like this.
    But if you’re going to use a MILESTONE IN DESIGN HISTORY in your sensationalist headline, do your darn homework!

    Reply
  16. Aileen DeJesus
    February 14, 2012

    I agree with the others, minimalism shouldn’t be considered a fad, and I certainly hopes it stays indefinitely. I’ve recently started going this route when updating existing websites (early 2000s brought out a lot of design fads and cluttered websites). Some projects will require the “less is more” attitude, others will not.

    Reply
  17. Debbs Hosting
    February 28, 2012

    Great article! Apparently, it has become a trend. But I think that creating a minimalist design is a little difficult because like you said, you have to choose the right fonts, lay it all out in accordance to a typography well-thought, and use the white space without letting your visitor feel there’s something missing in your page.

    Reply
  18. Masood
    March 1, 2012

    Hi Peter…Why you missed my site in your list? Did you forget it?

    Reply
  19. nancy chovancek
    February 7, 2013

    I truly appreciate white space. Thanks for the great blog post. I always say that less is more on the site. When people see images, they always want to click on it and see if goes anywhere. If there is no purpose for an asset on a page, it shouldn’t be there at all.

    Reply
  20. Andy B
    February 7, 2013

    Use of white space is a real dark art, it takes impeccable design to perfectly balance a page and still guide the user to perform a meaningful action. Get it right and you have a thing of true beauty, get it wrong and you are leaving the user feeling like something is missing. I think many designers fail to consider basic composition when trying to design minimalist websites, after all a site is essentially a canvas, treat it as such and the masterpiece will reveal itself.

    Reply

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