Is Minimalist Design the Key to Good Design?

For a long time, minimalism in design was considered the epitome of timeless aesthetics, functionality, quality, and good taste. As a result, more and more brands and products began to focus on a more reduced appearance, but at the same time became more and more similar. Therefore, the questions come to my mind: Is minimalist design always synonymous with good design? Is reduction to the essential really the key to good design? Is “less” always “more”?

Minimalist design = Form follows function = Good design?

Minimalist design follows the principles of “form follows function” and “less is more”. Simply put: the design of an object should be derived from its purpose, and everything unnecessary is left out. In this way, it enables a clear message without getting lost in superfluous details.

But just because a design follows its function doesn’t automatically mean it’s “good.” After all, considering only the function would be just as wrong as considering only aesthetics!

So what does it take to call a design “good”? Of course, in addition to basic aesthetic principles, it should also ensure intuitive usability, be sustainable and effective, and at best even arouse emotions. (If you want to dive deeper into this topic, I can recommend the following articles: Should Design Be Subjective Or Objective? and The Debate On Timeless Aesthetics: What Makes Art & Design Last?)

In order for a design to truly be defined as “good,” numerous factors must be considered: How does the design fit into its environment? What impact does it have on its users? What causes it to be used joyfully, often, and for a long time? The answers to these questions should always be taken into consideration during the design process. The key to good design, then, is to understand the user and how certain design elements can be used effectively to achieve the desired result.

Minimalist Lamp Design created by Aesence
This lamp was created using AI – so is it an example of good design just because it is reduced to its essentials?
Heel Chair By Nendo
This minimalist chair by Oki Sato aka nendo stands out from many other minimalist chair designs – it has its own identity. © Heel Chair by nendo

Is Minimalist Design a Loss of Identity?

The criticism that minimalist design often appears uniform and monotonous is not unfounded: Many pieces of furniture, buildings, websites, layouts, etc., do indeed look the same. So the biggest difficulty is to create a unique identity.

In this context, the targeted use of details is of particular importance – they make the design distinctive. The absence of details, on the other hand, can also be a deliberately used stylistic element to emphasize the uniqueness of a design. But beware: if composition, color choice, symmetry, and other important design elements do not make the overall design convincing, the absence of details can determine whether the design is good or bad. (Read more about that here: What Makes Minimalist Design? The Big Picture Or The Detail?)

As is often the case, it’s about finding the right balance – details that convey an identity need to be used just as carefully as reducing them to the essentials.

Minimalist Design = Good Design if Details, Identity, Aesthetics & Function are in Balance

Minimalism in design is an effective approach when it comes to developing clear, aesthetic, and functional solutions. So less can actually be more, as long as the design achieves a harmonious balance of aesthetics, function, details, and identity. It’s important to focus on how each aspect of a design contributes to the user experience and how it can be customized to its desired purpose on an individual level.

So yes, minimalist design can lead to good design, but it’s not a guarantee. But it does guarantee a good starting point.

How do you see it? Is minimalist design synonymous with good design? I’m looking forward to your comment!

Further Reading / Interesting additions

About Exploring Aesthetics:

Sarah loves asking questions and exploring the things she engages with on a daily basis. Exploring aesthetics is her column which discusses art, design, and aesthetics to explore, inspire, and question the status quo.

  1. Interesting article! I agree with your view that minimalist design does not automatically equate to good design. As a designer, I find that the most important thing in the design process is to keep the user and their needs at the forefront. Minimalist design can be aesthetically pleasing, but to me it should be contextual (!) to truly be considered good design. Many lose sight of that, thinking that minimalist design is a universal style that makes every product etc. pretty and good to use. Keep up the good work! Really exciting discussion!

  2. Very interesting article! I am a big fan of Dieter Rams and Bauhaus. I agree that minimalism alone is not a guarantee of good design and numerous factors need to be taken into account. However, it makes me wonder if sometimes the focus on details can lead to losing the clarity and simplicity of the design? Minimalism, in my opinion, can in itself create a strong identity if you appreciate just that. Ultimately, as you say, it’s about striking the right balance, but shouldn’t that also mean that sometimes we can let minimalism speak for itself rather than overload it with details? Because otherwise it’s not Minimalism anymore, is it?

    1. Hey Shona, thanks for your comment and perspective! You’re absolutely right that sometimes the focus on details can lead to losing the clarity and simplicity of the design – and yes, with too many details it’s probably not minimalist design anymore either. Greetings from Berlin

  3. I’m a designer and I agree with many of the points in your essay… Minimalism is a great approach to focus on the essentials, however, it is important to remember that custom details and features are critical to creating a custom design. Minimalist design is the foundation of good design in my opinion, everything else then refines it…

  4. Dear Sarah, I agree with you on many points. I can understand your thoughts very well. Especially the need to combine certain aspects into a harmonious unity, I find very important. But you’re also right that it often lacks an individual character, which is a shame because minimalist design actually offers so many possibilities to create really wonderful and unique works. Overall, I think minimalism will continue to be an important and inspiring approach to design, but it’s also important to think beyond and break away from dogma. Thank you for this thought-provoking article!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Aesence is an independent art and design publication dedicated to minimalist aesthetics. Founded out of a deep appreciation and fascination, Aesence aims to promote awareness and appreciation of minimalism in art and design.