Minimalist Graphic Design: A Rundown of Minimalist Style

Minimalism is always in style. Whether you're creating illustrations, product designs, or a website layout, it's all about purposeful simplicity. Learn about the history and minimalist graphic design's key design principles to make the style your own.

The history of minimalist style

Minimalist graphic design styles became popular throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. This style of art incorporated a broad range of art forms—ranging from visual arts to architecture and even music—and incorporates design elements from earlier modern and abstract art styles. When minimalist style first developed in the 1960s, it was primarily influenced by these three art styles:

  • De Stijl: This artistic style from the Netherlands developed from 1917 through the 1930s. It primarily focused on rectangles, strong horizontal and vertical lines, and black, white, gray, and primary colors.
  • Van der Rohe: This German architectural style developed around open space, stark structural frames, and removing nonessential elements.
  • Historical Japanese design: This style was characterized by simple lines and colors, few (if any) unnecessary details, and a clean presentation.

While the architect Van der Rohe might be considered a founder of minimalist design principles in the early 1900s, Buckminster Fuller and Dieter Rams are largely considered to be the first prominent artists that brought minimalism to life. Buckminster Fuller was a mid-century architect well-known for using geodesic domes in his building designs, and Dieter Rams is an industrial designer that designed electronics, consumer appliances, and more.

What are the basic principles of minimalist style?

Unlike many other popular styles of art, minimalism is guided by adherence to a set of principles rather than being inspired by certain artists or expressive themes. Minimalism guides the creation of visual art through a series of rules that determine the use of blank space, limit complications and ornate details, and guide the layout of different objects across a limited 2D or 3D space.

The overriding principle of minimalism is the idea that 'less is more.' Minimalist artists strip away unnecessary elements while still ensuring that the right idea is expressed. For example, rather than a photorealistic portrait of a person, a minimalist design may feature simple geometric shapes that represent large elements of the person (such as the body or clothes and the head) with basic colors. Picture the representation of a person on a restroom sign compared to a Renaissance painting.

However, minimalist design can be used for more than artwork. Even in its founding stages, Dieter Rams used minimalist principles to design consumer goods to make them simple, pure, and not overwhelming.

By knowing the basic principles of minimalist style, you can both recognize and create minimalist art. Some of the basic principles to keep in mind are:

  • Simplicity: All non-essential elements should be removed. Not only should there be as little as possible, but designers should also actively remove elements until the design is near the breaking point and removing anything else will ruin the product design or functionality.
  • Incorporation of blank space or white space: Minimalism uses definite shapes and designs, but a lot of the space is purposefully empty.
  • Strong but simple colors: Primary colors, black, and white make up the color palette for most minimalist designs.
  • Purposefulness: Every element adds essential functionality or communication.

When you're designing, illustrating, or building in the minimalist style, prepare for revisions. Once your initial draft is complete, you can start stripping away details, filters, unnecessary lines and components, and other details until it's as minimal as possible.

Create illustrations in minimalist graphic design style with CorelDRAW

Having the right tools makes it easy to create your initial vision and then start removing complications until you're left with a masterpiece that adheres to minimalist design principles. With our software, you can organize your design into layers and objects for easier revisions and redesigns. Download our software to start creating today.

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