The Mystical Attraction of Minimalism

Many people think of design as a discipline where form and structure come together – and, rightfully so. A designer’s job, after all, is to put marks on the page.

Assuming a blank page is “un-designed,” then a page with lots of stuff must be “designed,” right? After all, how can something be well-designed if it is not filled with aesthetic bits?

Here’s where things get tricky. In any design composition, the balance between what is present and what is absent is an important, yet misunderstood relationship. We’ve all been a part of these, “make it bigger, make it bolder, make it brighter” discussions. Unfortunately, when everything screams for attention, the net result is noise.

When everything stands out, nothing stands out.

Web design is very susceptible to this “more is better” thinking. Especially in the healthcare setting. Marketing teams can be large and the internal political landscape delicate, leading to plenty of strong personalities wanting to leave their mark on the page. Most often, the end result is a Web experience that is overly complicated, with no focused message.

Thankfully, there are a few design principles and elements that help us stay focused. Contrast (large versus small; dark versus light; textured versus smooth, to name a few) is ultra-important, as we guide users through a complex Web story. As designers, we let one thing “scream” while everything else is hushed. This creates emphasis or dominance.

And finally, in comes the secret weapon – space. The temptation to fill space is familiar to every designer. It’s as though we’re not earning our keep unless every void is filled with bric-a-brac. But, as space is filled, noise increases. And, as noise increases we lose the focus we desire.

Not filling space takes self-restraint. Evaluate those trite, airy swooshes running through the background. What purpose do they serve? Assess icons objectively. Do they do anything to further understanding? Are three different links leading to a single topic or good idea? If one is not successful, evaluate why rather than adding two more.

As you work on a website design, try to look back to the principles and elements that have guided great design since the beginning of time. Open your mind to minimalism – it always works. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out our portfolio of awesome design work. Then, let’s talk about how to make your next site design really stand out.

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Bill Basler

About Bill Basler

Named Ad Person of the Year. Adjunct professor of graphic design. President of an advertising agency. Yeah, Bill has a pretty impressive background. But what’s even more impressive is his ability to consistently deliver outstanding creative. His team wins awards for design and usability, but more importantly they know how to “wow” our clients with both eye-catching design and jaw-dropping results. Bill has spent the last 25 years on the agency side, first as a senior art director and then an associate creative director for two regional firms, and most recently as president of his own design agency. He is also an active member of the Advertising Federation of Cedar Rapids and an adjunct professor of graphic design at Mount Mercy University. Bill holds a bachelor’s degree in graphic design from Iowa State University and while he cut his teeth on designing award-winning print campaigns, he is equally comfortable designing across platforms including Web, social media and video. This father of six is married to a radio D.J., likes antiques boats and is the only one at Geonetric that insists on using a Mac.

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