In visual arts, music, and other mediums, minimalism is an art movement that began in post–World War II Western art, most strongly with American visual arts in the 1960s and early 1970s. Prominent artists associated with minimalism include Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Anne Truitt, and Frank Stella. It derives from the reductive aspects of modernism and is often interpreted as a reaction against abstract expressionism and a bridge to post-minimal art practices. The term minimalism is also used to describe a trend in design and architecture, wherein the subject is reduced to its necessary elements. At its best, minimalist design gives the impression that it was created with little effort. There’s no excessive use of textures, filters, layers and ornamentation. So, where’s the effort? While minimalist design appears to be simple and effortless, it is the design of the most difficult kind – everything matters: proportion, scale, color, form. Each element must be precisely designed or the composition falls apart. The minimalist approach is to design by subtraction – only the essentials remain.
Bauhaus Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adopted the motto “Less is More” to describe his aesthetic. His modernist tactic was one of arranging the necessary components of a building to create an impression of extreme simplicity – he enlisted every element and detail to serve multiple visual and functional purposes; for example, designing a floor to also serve as the radiator, or a massive fireplace to also house the bathroom. Designer Buckminster Fuller adopted the engineer’s goal of “Doing more with less”, but his concerns were oriented toward technology and engineering rather than aesthetics.
The concept of minimalist design is to strip everything down to its essential quality and achieve simplicity. The idea is not completely without ornamentation, but that all parts, details, and structural components are considered as reduced to a stage where no one can remove anything further to improve the design. In minimalist design, each element strives to convey the message of simplicity. Basic geometric forms, elements without decoration, simple materials and the repetitions of structures represent a sense of order and essential quality. For the architect, the movement of natural light in minimalist buildings reveals simple and clean spaces. For the graphic designer, the movement of images and typography on a printed page or screen accentuates the balance of form and negative space.