You’ve heard it: “Less is more”. We still say it. We still kinda love it … Because it’s as close to a truthful self-contradiction as you can get. When we trim our living room down to the bare minimum, we not only appreciate the architecture better, but all of a sudden, we notice the art on our walls.

But Minimalism has it’s limits. You cannot simplify unless there’s something to leave room for. Minimalism works, when there’s something else than the aesthetics to put the focus on.

It worked for Giorgio Armani, because, like italian food, the raw materials were of exquisite quality. It works in classic Japanese architecture for the same reasons. The clay on the walls. The hand-imprinted paper in the sliding doors. The straw in the Tatami. The artwork and flower arrangements in the Tokonoma.

It worked for Dieter Rams, because he recognized the sublime functionality of Braun’s products. Simplifying made space for the function to come alive. The design did not compete with the experience. The record player was about the music, not the object on your shelf. The design was humble and thus elevated. IBM learned that lesson with the ThinkPad – then Apple got on board.

Simply put: Minimalism works, if the function excites. Otherwise, other tactics are needed. You cannot reduce, if there’s nothing to enlarge. My all-time favorite Art Director Bob Gill, put it like this: “If you have boring content, make interesting graphics. If you have interesting content, make boring graphics”.

The Guinness Doctrine: You can’t have your Minimalism, unless your content or function excels. Until then, you will have to do with “More is More”. If that doesn’t convince you, check:

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