Is it about ‘less is more’? Is it about having a completely blank pack? Or white space around the design? What exactly is minimalism all about? It has been there for a long time but do we know the true de nition of minimalism? Will it be a benchmark for good design in 2020? We ponder over some of these questions in a discussion with Elephant Design team.
I feel minimalism is about ‘making the most with minimalistic elements’. It is about simple and clear communication without the clutter of unnecessary elements. It also helps give a premium and evolved image for the brand.
There is a lot of visual clutter on the shelves. How can a brand create an impact in an overwhelming environment? Many brands are going minimalist in packaging to better stand out on the shelf. It gives the consumer the right information in a clear way. It creates the perception of honest communication and helps the brand build trust. Too many claims make the brand look as if it is trying too hard. This overdone way of promising may sometimes result in loss of believability.
A lot depends on who the intended audience is. Just because something is in trend doesn’t mean one has to apply it to all. We must know our consumer. The Paperboat can go minimalist and have an impact on the consumer’s mind but at the same time brands like ‘Kurkure’ where the philosophy is all about ‘Taste’, the pack needs to have a vibrancy, dynamism and abundance.
There has to be a difference in interpreting design based on the type of consumer. Evolved consumer vs. a consumer who is looking for value for money products needs to be addressed differently.
Several brands are adapting minimalism in their branding. They want their brand to reach out to the masses but want to remove unnecessary layers from their logos. There is a probability of creating strong brand recall if there are lesser but stronger elements in your brand visual identity. Visible, readable and feasible for print as well as digital are the primary benefits if the visual identity is crisp and sharp.
I believe Minimalism is a tool more than a trend! If you know where to use it, how to use with the right amount of proportions, you win!
Lead Designer, Elephant Design
Minimalism is an age-old concept and has been interpreted in various ways in human history. I believe minimalism is simplicity in anything and everything.
It’s about going against the unnecessary excess & ornamentation of things. It is about being smarter and decluttering your life, buying only what you need and not what you want. Thus, reducing your carbon footprint and making your life simple and easier to navigate.
Minimalism as a design trend is a relatively newer concept. Starting in the American art history in the 60s where you saw its influence in paintings and Installation arts.
But how we interpret minimalism in functional design is much different. We can see its origins in the digital world first where Google famously used the tactile reality of ink and paper in their material design language. Thus making the whole look and feel of their UI very simplistic, flat, and very easy to use and navigate. This made their design seem more honest and grounded as compared to the bloated & flashy Samsung’s UI and the vibrant & translucent Apple’s UI.
In packaging design minimalism is also being referred to as ‘simple packaging’. Which may seem easy but anyone in design will agree that cracking anything simple is a very difficult task. In simple packaging we can let go of the bells and whistles and reach to the core task of the packaging, keeping it functional and smarter. In doing so we reduce the material costs involved like inks, substrates, filler materials and more and also automatically making the packaging environmentally sustainable.
To understand whether the minimalism trend will sustain through 2020 or not we need to talk about who the current audience is. Generation Z or Alpha is growing up with technology and information at their fingertips. They are very opinionated and individualistic with most believing in freedom and transparency in their life. Most in this generation who are well informed are environmentally conscience and cause-driven who prefer honesty in the brands they use. Thus they will essentially buy the brands that align with their thought process.
With this evolving audience and the need for brands to be environmentally conscious & smarter either through design, technology or materials, this minimalism trend will surely see a rise in the coming years. In India where everything is over the top, Indian designers will find their way of making this trend work.
We recently got an opportunity to design the airport pick-up zone experience for the leading international cab-ride brand Uber. We had to be cognisant of the Global Brand Guidelines which are very simple yet very thoughtfully done for an international market. Instead of having a logo they have a typeface with a set kerning and set leading, a specific layout structure and simple guidebook for using 2D graphics. Internationally the visual language usage is strictly minimal but we soon realised that India needs a different and perhaps a more obvious approach.
So we had to design a different system in graphics which was India specific but kept as minimal as possible. This project made us aware of how we need to navigate between global guidelines and local insights so that the travellers with short attention span have the smoothest cab-hailing & pick-up experience in the simplest possible way.
Lead Designer, Elephant Design
In the last decade, technology has taken over our lives at a rapid pace and it has changed a multitude of things. Mobile devices are almost becoming an added organ of the body. We are changing ways of consuming information. Needless to say that the marketing bombardment on us has increased manifolds which in-turn has reduced our attention span.
While all these changes are happening fast, our behaviour & ways of doing things are evolving accordingly. This calls for a need to change the way we reach out to everyone. Thus, minimalism today is a necessary change or rather the need of the hour. With faster networks and smart devices, people can pull out the information they need instantly. Thus the biggest challenge is getting their attention and giving them smaller bits of information to consume and designs that intrigue them.
So moving to minimalism in packaging design is the way forward. Most of the clients have an elaborate story to tell through their packaging. The challenge is how to break it into smaller bits of information though infographics, images and written content and turn it into a storytelling piece. Add to it the need to use a relevant design that would break the clutter and help the brand stand-out.
To cite an example, we worked on the packaging of Fittify – a newly launched healthy + gourmet food products range by saffola. With many brands targeting either healthy or gourmet category, to position this range as a combination of both, needed a lot of information on the pack. Thus we had a plethora of messaging to be done on the front of the pack like superfoods used in it and the nutritional panel for health, whereas the image of Master Chef who curated the recipes, as well as an appetising food shot to convey the gourmet story. So we broke down this information into smaller consumable formats and used mnemonic, imagery and minimum text to create an eye-catching design.
With this being the case with most of the clients, rarely you’re surprised by a client who gives you a free-hand to explore genuine minimalism. We got that opportunity with the Paperboat – a brand of ethnic beverages and foods. Since the brand’s story was to create nostalgia with a few lost tastes and flavours, we thought it could be represented in a simplistic and minimalistic manner. So we went bold with minimalism (in 2012) and brought out the life of the flavours through bright colours and simplistic graphical representation of fruits and ingredients. And all this happened when the competing brands had set a norm of showing images of fruits. Needless to say, the design stood out in any aisle or shelf and got a tremendous response.
Thus as technology is evolving, several things are evolving with it. The future of minimalism is difficult to predict. Maybe, there will come a time when package designing will directly create cues or triggers for smart devices to narrate their story. With the IoT (Internet of things) packaging already taking shape, it’s not too far that the product packs will interact with their consumers directly through their smartphones. So while it’s difficult to predict this fast-changing future, one thing is for certain, Minimalism is the way forward.
Published in Issue 49
The Design in 2020! Each year starts with many predictions, anticipations and a lot of hope for bad things to go out and good things to come in our life. The year 2020 has already started with eventful initial months and may hold more surprises in coming times. To understand what’s coming from the design perspective, we featured some of the best design projects from last year. Also discussed a few broad questions like how minimalism will affect our designs or what all an illustrator to keep in mind to be successful and much more.
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