Is Minimalist Still In Vogue? You Bet

minimal8Natural beauty in engineering and design is often a result of refined simplicity. For those who don’t know, minimalist Web design refers to site design that has been stripped of all superfluous glitter, hammered down to its most fundamental features and the basic elements to support them.

In the words of one designer; “a balance between the way a site works and looks” is fundamental to the minimalist philosophy. Evaluating aesthetics and function in this way can be equated to building a leaf of a tree, the perfect combination of form, color and function. So then, minimalist sites mimic nature to a great degree. Let’s take a look at some superb examples from around the Web.

Frank Chimero is an illustrator, writer and graphic designer who teaches design and typography at Missouri State University. With clients from The New York Times to Starbucks, Frank is making a name for himself in several communities including animation graphics. His website is one of the best of its type I have seen. Utilizing a balanced white space approach, with a tiny bit of motion graphics over simple navigation, Frank has created a poster child for the type.

Simple but elegant - the sign of graphic design within

Simple but elegant - the sign of graphic design within

Grow is the website of Grow Interactive, a company that specializes in technology that engages everything from online ads to social networking and viral marketing. Their site is not only simple and uncluttered, but the initial flash presentation translates the Grow logo motif by literally growing out of the viewer’s screen. It is not what many would consider truly minimalist, as it is rather like a superbly simple design that mutated slightly past minimal into ornate. The image below pretty well illustrates this. The reader can just see a little animated squirrel at the bottom of the site (a cute touch), which further conveys a sense of nature and interaction without over doing it.

Take simple, add a tiny bit of flash - presto

Take simple, add a tiny bit of flash - presto

Web and interactive designer Vitor Lourenco’s site operates on the level of a single thought it is so simple. A closer look at the site, and especially Vitor’s other work, reveals a method to his minimalist madness however. Vitor is the Sr. User Experience Designer at Yahoo! Brazil, and has recently worked as the visual and interface designer for Twitter. He specializes in designs that are both interactive and aesthetically beautiful, as illustrated by his home site.

Almost too simple - almost

Almost too simple - almost

glear is the website of interactive designer Kevin Kalle. This design is engagingly beautiful, it also reflects a balance which is inherent to all great websites of any persuasion. A quote from Kalle himself expresses this idea best:

Without a proper balance of the way it works and the way it looks, you are left with a platter of gravy.

Minimalist design of the dark persuasion

Minimalist design of the dark persuasion

Of all the sites I visited, Kalle’s is perhaps the most striking. This is a perfect example of how function can be accentuated by form and color. The designer created a site to exactly match the philosophy of “balance”, and from text to every minute function, the site offers a unique clarity to the visitor experience. A superb design – period.

Every letter and every button is well thought out.

Every letter and every button is well thought out.

The Behind Design website is the ultimate expression of simplicity and the use of white space cleanness. Graham Davies is a freelance programmer and Web developer based in the U.K., who was something of a child prodigy, starting at age 14 reading PHP and working at age 15. The dramatic effect of washed out white space and highlighted black text is a little out of balance for my taste, but it is exemplary as another example of a type of design art.

White space extreme - a read or else proposition

White space extreme - a read or else proposition

I am no graphic design or coding wizard, but seeing the beauty of form and function in a web design can be crystal clear to anyone who frequents so many. Whether or not you are a fan of this style (most notably illustrated by Google’s ugliness), it is clear the people who adhere to the “balance” principle have a lot going for them. On an Internet full of over-engineered innovation, I think there is a lot to be learned from the best designers of this philosophy. Perhaps the lesson is; “Set goals for what you want to achieve, and do only that better than anyone else”. I hope you enjoy these sites, and that you will share some other great examples with the community.

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  • Springbeat

    Minimalstic design, white space has always been designers favorite in Scandinavian. Take a look at a new released website for a product, Fiberwig Mascara, http://www.fiberwig.se

    • http://www.pamil-visions.com Phil Butler

      Down right pretty Spring! I like some of these a lot. I mentioned I am not Mr. Designer, but I do know what people like (or some of them). :) I actually looked up the definition of the term minimalist, and I think I paraphrased it in there somewhere.

      Always,
      Phil

  • pixeline

    In my opinion, none of the above-mentioned websites are minimalism. Not in the historical sense inherited from the Bauhaus : form driven from function _ check this out instead: http://www.lisapram.com

  • Springbeat

    Websites mentioned above in the article is minimalstic in a web 2.0 way with colors and not to much information in one place. More user friendly and attractive.

  • pixeline

    The article title refers to a previous “fashion” of minimalism (… is “still”…). It would be interesting that the author explicitates when was that so-called era of minimalism. when people did not use css nor table-based design? When it was all green characters on a black background ? Ascii art?
    Sorry, but this article lacks referencial arguments, and ends up sounding just like advertising to me…

    • http://www.pamil-visions.com Phil Butler

      Hi Pixeline, I acquiesce to your expertise on this as I was not able to go further in depth. I was basically presenting the cases in point for a look rather than an in depth study of the art. These are generally accepted as great examples. Perhaps not the very best, perhaps some of the readers would submit better ones, from those who are much better versed than me.

      Thanks for your view and let me know your expertise. As for the title, it implies that some or many may not like this style any more (maybe it is getting old etc.), but I am assuring everyone that I think it is still in with the right people doing it. I thought it was clear enough?

      Always,
      Phil

  • http://www.tyssendesign.com.au Tyssen

    explicitates

    What’s that mean then?

  • pixeline

    sorry_ that’s a transposition from French. I meant “explain”, or “exemplify”, “expose”.
    I think i jumped on the wrong post: what i understand from minimalism is the search for the most reduced human – machine dialogue. The sublimation of minimalism often leads creative web designers to conceive new forms of navigation systems. Sure, it is more often found outside the realm of commercial websites, but some do serve their designers so well that they become iconic for that: think Yugop, Samouraï from Japan,… a few hints:

    http://www.stevenholl.com/
    http://www.octopus.sg/

    You want white space? Check this out: http://www.screenvader.com/

    you want minimal content? : http://goingtorain.com/

    hope this helps

  • http://www.leapgo.com LeapGo

    Maybe lisapram.com is considered minimalist, but to me it’s considered MMN – http://www.webpagesthatsuck.com/mysterymeatnavigation.html.

  • Anonymous

    One of the most frequent comments we get about Bike EXIF is the simplicity of the design. People seem to like it.

    It also makes it easier to make small layout changes: design is like mayonnaise, in that you need to get the proportions right. The fewer factors involved, the easier it becomes.

    Cheers, Chris

  • glenngould

    Thanks for some great examples. I don’t think we can easily call these minimalist though, but I accept the term is widely used for such designs. Also that Picasso is not a minimalist painting.

  • http://www.pixeline.be pixeline

    LeapGo: maybe you’re not part of its target audience. That website you link to is completely horrible. Not even worth looking at, not only on its form but also on its content. How can someone talk about good web design and put up such a crappy interface, such a one way “i know it all” tone? This is i guess for marketeers, to give them the feeling they can actually talk about design. And ultimately i guess to sell this website author as an expert of some sort. Don’t fall for it.

    This is much more commendable: http://k.sokhan.name/blog/2009/03/09/analysis-of-the-web-interface
    Don’t miss the last point.

  • JHig310336

    I’ve always been a fan of minimal design. A site that is, quick-loading, organized, usable, and not done entirly in FLASH … will always have a special place in my Favorites tab.

  • http://www.historycommons.org/ Black Max

    Here’s a site I consider truly minimalist:

    Leon Paternoster

    Leon has a couple of very simple WordPress themes available. I’ll give him the free plug. :)

    This one is less truly minimalist but still elegant, simple, and uncluttered:

    Andrea Gandino

    This guy, of course, is the high priest of simple elegance:

    Jon Tan

  • http://www.historycommons.org/ Black Max

    I have to agree, Lisa Pram’s site is too cute by half and very much MMN.

    • http://www.pamil-visions.com Phil Butler

      Hi Max, Yes Lisa’s site, while interesting, does cross the line a little. Balance is a hard thing to achieve I guess. As several have mentioned, the site needs to be a reflection of the owner too, so this weighs heavily on how they turn out. I noticed that many of these deisgner’s personal sites are of one persuasion, while the ones they create for others lean in totally different directions.

      Thanks for your input Max!
      Always,
      Phil

  • Nick Rinyo

    Grow! is by far the best, I think its important to remember that the word ‘design’ applies to making a site look visually appealing as well as have a level of usability. I think some of the these examples lack quality visually. I recently designed a website that is in no way minimalist but still has a level of interesting graphics on it that are practical along side the sites functionality. What do you think ? Just 4 Fun

    • http://www.pamil-visions.com Phil Butler

      Hi Nick,

      I agree about the Grow example, but I still have my favorite in form an function. If you look at these again, in some depth, there is one that is nearly perfect with regard to the balance between form and function. The one I am hiniting at reveals just the right text, color, usability and navigation…it makes its points nearly exactly….if such a thing is even possible. Grow is extraordinary in this way too, but it is interesting to note that none of Grow’s creations (like so many of the others) convey the same way.

      Always,
      Phil

  • http://www.bournias.net peterb

    Unless site designs have gone the way of art, I think that designs should simply reflect the way that the site owner wants.
    Here’s one of mine.

    http://www.do-my-site.com

    I didn’t see anything mentioned about whether or not those top sites were in foreign languages. I have seen many numerous foreign language sites that don’t even use dtd and simply work in quirks mode.

    • http://www.pamil-visions.com Phil Butler

      Hi Peter, As you noted, none of these are in foreign languages to my knowledge. I purposely chose only English sites for obvious reasons – Did not want to put up a “bad” subject site and not know what the text said. :)

      Always,
      Phil

  • krielly

    Great article. I recently redesigned the website for the insurance company I work for and stripped it of all it’s old flare and started to second guess myself thinking maybe it is too bare. This article gives me a little more confidence that it’s okay not to dump every photo and graphic you can find on your website!

    So thanks!

    oh, and here’s the site http://www.siegelagency.com/

    • http://www.pamil-visions.com Phil Butler

      A very nice example K. Thanks for the kind words too.

      Always,
      Phil

  • http://www.historycommons.org/ Black Max

    K, I think the Siegel site is excellent.

    the site needs to be a reflection of the owner too, so this weighs heavily on how they turn out.

    Very true. If Lisa’s site suits her, I have no more complaints about it. I would, however, raise teetotal hell if I were her client and she submitted that as a design proposal. But that’s a different situation.

  • Leon Paternoster

    @pixeline

    I’d be more impressed by http://k.sokhan.name/blog/2009/03/09/analysis-of-the-web-interface if the comment form was labelled or actually worked.

    I was quite interested in the article and was willing to email the author to point out his comment form wasn’t working, but I can’t find any contact details there. Grrrr.

  • http://www.pixeline.be pixeline

    @leon i know i told him via twitter (http://twitter.com/boxmodel) . When u submit the form, a modal window appears with a submit button. Uselessly complicated.

  • Konstantin Sokhan

    @pixeline @leon
    That is my site, I have [hopefully] fixed the comment form – should work now. Also, I have added a contact form. I apologize for the lack of refinement, but the site is barely a few weeks old.

    As for the complication of the comment system: it is meant to stop spamming. I do not use captcha, but this way there is less spam and people might actually make sure they proofread their posts.
    Two birds with one stone.

  • http://www.pixeline.be pixeline

    @Konstantin : Sometimes things must get bad before they get better. I’ll be happy to betatest your 2-bird 1 stone approach! good luck!

  • TomBradshaw

    Minimal is a great style, I would only use it for certain clients who require a clean professional website design. I do like the Grow and Behind Design websites.