Minimalist design is set to become a principal design trend in 2013, catering to consumers’ desire to absorb information quickly and easily given their increasingly impatient nature and growing time constraints. This design movement goes beyond the influence that Apple’s well-known, simple design aesthetic has had around the globe -- now, it’s more the Twitter 140-character restriction translated to design. It’s being reflected in packaging, print media, and products that take up the challenge of concision, leveraging form, iconic visuals, and color to cut to the chase and simplify communication to just the mandatory elements.
A good example of this design philosophy is Häfele Home’s, a German brand of homewares products, which are positioned around high utility for everyday use. To enable the product and its functionality to shine through on the shelf, Studio Verse, the Australian design agency, used stark photography to highlight product features and convey a sense of practicality and value. A simple sans serif typeface in black and grey is set against a predominantly white background and describes in plain language the product inside -- “Bamboo Spice Jar Organizer,” and “Bamboo Bowl Carrier with Stainless Steel Handle,” for example.
You’d be hard pressed to read more than a word or two or hear much commentary in Microsoft’s latest advertisements for its tablet, Surface. What you will find is telling angles, bold colors, and, frankly, not much else. However, despite the limited communication, through the visual tools consumers are able to gauge a laundry list of product benefits and features. For example, one can visually see its ultra-slim build gleaned from a side-view photo, as often found in Surface's outdoor advertising. The limited color palette used in the ads highlights its selection of strikingly bold color options for its keyboard attachments. The simple phrase, “Click in,” communicates the versatility of the product and its ability to move from a touchscreen tablet to personal laptop in a matter of a “click.” Lastly, in its television commercial, a coordinated performance number uses only song and dance to demonstrate the portability and lightweight nature of the product, while also showing it as fit for anyone from a student to a businessperson.
Lastly, NaturePaint, a U.K. company specializing in natural paints in powder packs made completely absent of synthetic and toxic ingredients, uses a simple, symbolic visual -- a line drawing of a tulip -- to hint at its natural characteristics and to indicate its straightforward performance. The black-and-white palette gives way to a single leaf, used as a color swatch. This combination of minimalist design elements creates a strong presence at shelf and aids shopability in an aisle crowded with color.
Consumers today need to be able to make purchase decisions more quickly by absorbing less information. In addition to the impact of time constraints and information overload, when consumers are given too much information, they are more likely to over-think their decisions and feel less confident in the choices they make. Marketers will need to restrain themselves and fight the impulse to put everything they think their consumer needs to know on a piece of marketing communication, and instead cater to consumers’ desire for brevity and impact.
In this case, less is really more -- while a marketer may be concerned that they won’t get their message across, elements and techniques of minimalist design can help deliver the intuitive responses they seek for their brands at the point-of-decision. Challenge yourself: how can you tell your story in as simple and consumable a way possible, leveraging design cues and copy to drive purchase decisions and build affinity?