profession March 14, 2019

Minimalism: the history before the lifestyle phenomenon

It’s one of the biggest trends and something that has been all over the media due to Tidying Up with Marie Kondo Netflix’s series. It’s Minimalism.
However, before being a recent approach to a clutter-free and happier lifestyle, Minimalism appeared as an artistic movement born out of a very different context.

The origins of Minimalism

It was the late ’60s, early ’70s. Artists in New York started to experiment with geometric abstraction and created something that stripped away the unnecessary.
Was it a bolder, different approach? Yes. But was it born out of nowhere? Not exactly.
Other movements came before it and most likely ended up have some influence. Some in style and practice, while others, the rationale behind it. Therefore, it’s important to understand their context, to also understand Minimalism.

The De Stijl art movement

De Stijl means The Style. Like the name, it was a movement born to be unpretentious and with a higher purpose than art.
It started in Holland in 1917, and it was born out of the necessity for deeper spiritual meaning.
Throw the use of horizontal and vertical lines, artists believed that it was directed towards the universal instead of the individual. Therefore, it was a way to communicate on a global scale.

Swiss Design

It’s recognized for its order and cleaning appearance.
The grid system, legible typefaces, and the right amount of white or negative space, are some of the ideas that came out of Swiss Design. These guidelines are also present in Minimalism.

Scandinavian Design

The Scandinavian design evolved tremendously after the war.
Scandinavian designers started seeing design as a lifestyle.
Overall function, clean lines and compositions, and neutral colors where some of the aspects that contributed (and are still predominant) to making Scandinavian design a worldwide phenomenon. They are also the reason why Scandinavian design and Minimalism go hand in hand together.

Japanese Influence on Minimalism

Japan influenced Minimalism’s philosophy.
Simplicity is a core concept of Zen, used by Japanese designers as a core philosophy. This idea shaped Japanese buildings in terms of practicality and usage.
The same goals are applied in minimalistic interiors.

German Design

Bauhaus was officially a German Institute of Design that forever changed design education all over the world.
This school adopted functionalism as a guiding principle to design. It shifted from fine arts to industrial, rationalized design.
One of the Bauhaus mottos still repeated to this day, is that form follows function. The building itself was the perfect representation of this principle, designed with clean, straight vertical lines.
Bauhaus principles, still make perfect sense to today’s approach. It highlights the idea that any piece of design should prioritize usability first and only consider aesthetic as a secondary feature.

Additionally, Dieter Rams and Ludwig Mies van Rohe have also given an invaluable contribution to Minimalism.
Rams was hired by Braun as an interior designer, architect and exhibition designer but soon enough he became head of Braun’s design department and famous for his motto Less, but Better.

On the other hand, Rohe was an architect that wanted to design buildings according to modern times and started using materials such as industrial steel and plate glass to convey clarity and simplicity.
He’s the one that created the Less is more and God is in the details expressions.

Minimalism nowadays

The fact that Minimalism is so popular in design right now isn’t something strange.
We are constantly being overwhelmed with information, products, and features. Every-Single-Day.
Therefore, it’s only normal to seek cleaner, more meaningful ways to interact with the world, and this approach does that exactly.
Brands such as IKEA have achieved international success since it takes these principles and creates beautiful, affordable products that everyone wants to have.

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