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Design Minimalism: The 2021 Guide
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Design Minimalism: The 2021 Guide

Minimalism is a concept — philosophy, if you will — that stays true to the phrase ‘less is more’. It transcends art and takes many forms in organization and lifestyle. For a lot of people, minimalism just means ‘cleaner’. How does this philosophy translate into modern design in 2021? Let’s find out!

As per the technical definition, minimalism is a style that creates designs using simple shapes, forms, and the least amount of colors and materials possible.

Minimalism In Modern Design

If one brand were to define minimalism in today’s times, it would be Apple. It has created the perfect combination of beauty with simplicity and got designers around the world scratching their heads.

Although minimal designs look simple, they force you to think more and execute less. They also go through the same process of problem to solution. To get it right, you need to know some basic elements of minimal design. But before that, you need to know when to use minimalism.

Best Uses for Minimal Design

While the content-driven design is always a great idea, minimalist aesthetics might not always be possible to pull off. The best place to use minimalism is a project with simple goals and less content.

1. Content highlighting:


Portfolio websites, promo pages, presentation decks are a few cases wherein content is minimal, and there is scope to leave out a lot of white space in order to display minimalism. Here, you need the content to shine more than the aesthetics or the presentation of your content. It makes the content easy to view and read, which is the prime goal of the product.

2. Contrast highlighting:

This is a rage with fashion brands nowadays. All kinds of apparel and accessories brands are using high contrast visuals in order to hold audiences. In such cases, minimalism works the best as it puts the entire focus on contrast. With no distracting elements around, your focus will start and end with the contrasting visual.

3. Crisp copy:

When you have too much copy on a page, it becomes difficult to apply minimalism. Sometimes, you cannot edit or eliminate a lot of words. Everything seems important and there is no scope for negative space, the trademark minimalist element. But when your copy is also minimal, for example, your website’s above the fold, minimalism with some contrast and focusing should be the way to go.

These are just a few examples of minimalist use cases. With the amount of experimenting being done with minimalism these days, this trend is percolating into anything and everything. As a designer, it would be crucial for you to keep track of developments and keep innovating with minimalism.

Basic Elements of Minimalist Design

Minimalism certainly isn’t just about leaving a lot of space unattended. There are a lot many tricks to achieving the perfect minimal design. Here are the basic elements that you can begin with, and then experiment with them to add your own touch of innovation.

1. White space/negative space:

Firstly, negative space doesn’t have to be white in color. You can find ample examples of negative space in black, pastels, and all sorts of colors. The core idea of negative space is to use it as a large frame for your content in focus. It is basically the blank space between elements.

A larger distance between elements puts greater focus and emphasis. Many times, designers and clients (mostly, clients) feel that all the space on a page needs to be filled with something. Negative space gives your content breathing space and makes it come alive. It makes you embrace the blankness and use it as an element of class.

2. Color:

A minimalist color scheme always uses a limited amount of colors. This does not mean that you must always use monochrome or black and white. You can instead play with bold colors and gradients to draw immediate attention. Using a rich color for your negative space alone can do the job at times.

Minimalist color schemes are all about generating visual interest without extra design elements or even graphics.

3. Photos and illustrations:

Photography and illustrations can be your next best friends in the minimalist journey after negative space. In fact, the whole point of negative space is to make the artwork shine.

But remember that just placing a photo in a negative space frame isn’t the whole deal. Having a busy photo with too many elements is against the rules of minimalism and will disturb the energy of your page. The purpose of photos and illustrations on a minimalist page is to engage with and form an emotional connection with your audience.

4. Typography and numbers:

In minimalist design, typography can be the most dramatic element. Bold and experimentative typography can bring immediate focus on the text you want to highlight, while also directing the reader towards the visual when placed strategically.

You can even coordinate the color scheme of your text with that of the images and illustrations for coherence and pattern development. This is something that you can achieve even with simple typefaces. Color, placement, size, and the actual copy will make all the difference.

5. Shapes & patterns:

It isn’t just photos and illustrations, you can also fill between the spaces with geometric shapes and patterns. Unleash your creativity and go berserk with shapes if you have to. Take inspiration from geometric designs across categories. Remember that minimalism should encompass your composition as a whole, and shapes need to fit in with the other elements.

Now, it’s time to put these elements together and use minimalist tips and tricks to paint a consistent visual.

Minimalism: Tips & Tricks

Let’s dive into the actual implementation of minimalist elements and how to take business problems to concepts and concepts to design solutions.

1. Visual hierarchy: 

The core of minimalist philosophy is the design created around the content. The goal of minimalism in commercial design is to make the message clear and outstanding by minimizing distraction and maximizing content focus. 

Only the functional and actionable elements must be kept in focus, with the rest filled by negative space and probably, small design elements. This simplifies the UX a lot. Further, go ahead and apply descending levels of focus in the order of importance of elements.

2. Remove unnecessary elements:

The philosophy of minimalist living is, for many, living with only 100 items that are absolutely essential for a decent life. Something similar applies to design as well. You need to retain only elements that are absolutely necessary for your audience. For example, images that are solely decorative can be gotten rid of. Copy that doesn’t make a point can be removed and shortened.

However, you need to be careful to not eliminate essential navigation elements while minimizing them. A hamburger menu isn’t always the solution. Make key navigation elements discoverable. After all, you need the actual content on a page to encourage audiences to look beyond design and provide business.

3. Simple color scheme:

You need not force minimalism into your color scheme by using strictly one or two colors. Each design has its unique demands. Instead, focus on the colors necessary for creating the right visual hierarchy and clean composition. You can go bold with your choice of colors, but don’t complicate matters too much. Don’t use gradients where they aren’t required. Increase font size and accent colors to create the right visual hints.

4. Flat interfaces:

The days of shadowed, embossed, and 3D CTA buttons are gone with the advent of minimalism. In minimalist UX design, icons, buttons, and all other elements are stripped bare to their most basic forms. The navigational ease, in this case, comes purely from layout and placements. For example, the F-pattern of content is very popular in order to smoothen navigation.

Flat interfaces involve the use of flat icons, textures, and other graphic elements. They don’t use shadows, highlights, fancy textures, or any other glossy and 3D elements to highlight visuals.

5. Prioritize functions:

When it comes to web design, especially UI UX, function is a key factor in minimalism. What it basically means is that your decisions about what to retain and what to remove, what to highlight and what to subdue, what and what not to color, etc. must be driven by the purpose each element serves. No element should be function-less. Keep subtracting decorative elements while drafting your design, until you have a sleek, minimal product that’s easy and soothing to the eyes.

6. Be particular about composition:

When we say composition, we don’t just mean placement. We are referring to the alignments, layout, and user flow that results from your composition. Remember the rule of thirds from design school? This is why they taught it to you. 

You don’t need to stick to one rule, though. You can also try alternatives. But remember that your composition has to make some technical sense. Be particular about strong grid alignments, and keeping the design clean and decluttered. This will ease navigation and guarantee a satisfying visual journey.

7. Use simple typefaces:

Since focusing on the copy is an essential element of minimalism, readability is a prime requirement. Clean, straightforward fonts are your best friends in minimalist UI UX or web design. But don’t forget to play with colors, size, and placement. When it comes to text, you can be outrageous, dramatic, peppy, classy, sober, or anything else that the design requires with elements other than the font.

8. Above-the-fold magic:

When you’re designing a webpage, landing page, or any other web property, your above-the-fold content, or the content directly visible on the first page without scrolling or any other action should be the hub of minimalism. How much you interest audiences with this content decides whether they scroll down or navigate further. 

In this section, place only the topmost impactful and high-level content with a great amount of negative space. You can increase the content density further into the navigation. 

Minimalism in UI UX Design

Minimalism in UI UX design works pretty much similar to that in web design and graphic design in general. The key difference here is that in UI UX, the focus is as much on navigation and user flow as it is on the attention-grabbing function of the design. Clarity and simplicity are what you must strive for as a minimal UI UX designer. This is because UI UX design is more of a journey than a singular experience, and you need to grab eyeballs as well invite audiences to move further and complete the journey. 

Examples of Minimalism in UI UX Designs

Here are a few popular examples of minimalist UI UX design, which you probably use every day. 

Insights from the Best in Business

The one common factor in all of the above UI UX designs is that they require very few clicks for users to perform core functions and access important menu options. They do so without often resorting to the hamburger menu trite and instead display multiple frequently used menus on a single screen with ample negative space to make it cleaner. All of this, while staying on-brand.

Remember that minimalism is yet another style of branding, not just design. Making logos and brand elements stand out is as important as creating seamless navigation. Shazam does an exceptional job at this by integrating its logo right in the middle of the screen and turning it into a navigation element as well.

Final Thoughts

Finally, don’t overdo the minimalism. You need to be very precise and not forget what’s important. The thin line between minimalism and inadequacy is very easy to cross, and resisting it only comes with a lot of practice. After all, the design is a lot of art along with a lot more technique and science. 

Let’s leave you with a parting note from an all-time genius of science philosophical concepts.

“Make things as simple as possible but no simpler.”

— Albert Einstein

If you want to nail perfectly minimal UI UX designs for your portfolio, check out Divami’s design services.  Leave the rest of the magic to us!

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