Contextual Studies 2

The Brief

This is the second year of our contextual studies module, the brief states we have too, expand my knowledge and understanding of the cultural history and critical debate which informs current thought about creative practice. I will be given the opportunity to develop skills in critical analysis, research methodologies and formulating, developing and presenting coherent arguments following academic conventions. I will be given help and instruction in how to improve my research and presentation skills and techniques throughout the Module.

I am to extend last years blog by researching on the context of “NOW” with the aim of presenting your findings in terms of a formal academic Essay.

Possible themes:

Globalisation, Emergent technologies, The new world order, The information age…..Follow your passions and think of what I need to know to really understand that field. The key thing is for the topic to be meaningful and current.

The following notes run through some of the key elements common to a proposal They also provide you with a series of headings for possible sections. It is better to break the proposal up into discrete elements so that both you and your tutor have a clear sense of what it is you are proposing to do. You may not know clear and complete answers to these questions. Proposals will evolve and be developed further during your study. What needs to be demonstrated is your understanding that the research you are undertaking has clear potential to be realistic, worthwhile and achievable.

My proposal should consist of a

  1. A working title of the topic area

(This should do more than convey the key words associated with the proposed research. A clear title is crucial. Often a snappy title and explanatory subtitle is of use. E.G.”I’m with the band” –an exploration of the relationships between visual artists and musicians).

  1. General overview of area.

(This should take the form of a brief outline of the general area of study, enabling you to…


identify the discipline(s) within which your study falls. E.G. “An exploration of the collaborations between artists and scientists and the resulting current trends in data representation.” This lies in two discrete bodies of knowledge


demonstrate your own experience, competencies, skill sets, that will assist your investment in your chosen area.


Articulate the potential contribution to new knowledge in the chosen field of research (e.g. explanations of what gaps, limitations or areas that have not been covered adequately from your initial reading of the literature. How might new audiences be engaged. How may this research inform your career trajectory. How might you test a claim).

2.4      articulate what you hope to contribute to the field by covering these gaps and doing research in the particular area. What is it for?

2.5      clearly state your research objectives

  1. Identification of the relevant literature/artworks/artists/practices

In this section, you should develop your proposal to …

3.1      demonstrate that you are aware of the debates and issues raised in relevant bodies of literature

3.2      make references to key articles and texts/artworks/artists/practices/ debates. Where do you fit into the constellation of thought and practices. show that you appreciate their relevance to your research area. locate your research objectives within contemporary literature and practice in the wider field.

  1. Key research questions

What are the key questions within your niche area?

But of course that invites the following question: what makes a question a good (research) question?

It is not so general that it cannot be answered without risk of even greater generality

It is not so ‘narrow’ that it is unable to sustain or lead to any analytic depth

It must be motivated by a genuine need to know – a desire to find something out (it must be important to you).

It must be genuinely informative, that is, able to generate new knowledge: and that means it must also be motivated by the academic field to which it is addressed a contribution to, not a restatement of the research of others.

It is focussed on a problem that has a clearly identified rationale

4.1. List your key questions.

  1. Methodology

5.1      What are the methodological tools available to you?

5.2      You need to show some understanding of which would be suitable for your research. It may be that active qualitative methods, such as the analysis of interviews, studio experimentation, field experiments etc is appropriate, you may be combining methodologies.

Specify and justify the approach you feel will be most appropriate.

  1. Bibliography


Chosen theme – Research Proposal – Whats right for the time?

This is probably the easiest part of the project, “Follow your passions” I need to think of what I need to know to really understand that field. The key thing is for the topic to be meaningful and current. I love anything that is clean, simplistic, and beautiful to look at. This were I stumbled upon minimal/simplistic design, minimal/simplistic design is an area that I have discovered a burning passion for, I began being interested in minimalistic design at the start of my first year foundation degree at university, I use minimalism a lot in my research and more importantly in quite a lot of the work that I produce. Minimalism appealed to me because it tends towards the use of whitespace, better typography, grid layouts, and less colour, which are all areas I like to use in my design work. Its purpose is to make the content stand out and be the focal point. From a visual standpoint, minimalist design is calming and bring the mind down to the basics. For the research part of the brief I will start to look at the history of minimalism, and the different types of minimalism, such as minimalistic design and architecture, as well as minimal art and visual art etc. I will also look in to minimalistic designers, artists, architects. Further will consist of minimalism as a whole, and what I mean by that is not just design and architecture, more about how it impacted different places etc. Finally I will question whether its still as popular as it used to be.

Relevant Resources

Research Objectives

  • Look in to different types of minimalism – history of minimalism
  • Compare past and present minimalists?
  • Is it appropriate for today?
  • Why is it approaching the end of its time?
  • How has it evolved throughout the years, and what impact did have in the 1950’s – 70’s?

Essay opener – mini thesis

“This is a personal essay that will look into how minimalism has evolved, and why it still plays a major part in modern society”


What is minimalism exactly? The Oxford Dictionary defines it as: The use of the fewest and barest essentials or elements, as in the arts, literature, or design. I came across minimalism In my first year foundation degree in Graphic Design as I stated above. My favourite element of design is minimalism, more or less everything that involves minimalism catches my eye immediately. Sol LeWitt, Yuta Takahashi, and Carl Barenbrug are minimalist designer/artists that I take a lot of inspiration from, I will analysis these artists in further detail further in to my research.

Beautiful clean design never fails to pull my attention, whether it’s a design, architecture or a photograph.

Where did Minimalism come from?

Minimalist design is one of the most significant design movements of the 20th century and early 21st century. It isn’t the flashiest, or the most popular, but it arguably penetrated more fields than almost any other art or design trend. Everything from user interfaces, to hardware designs, to cars, to films and games, to the web and visual designs of today – all those fields and more were influenced by minimalism.

Contrary to what you might think, minimalism was never inspired by poverty and austerity. In fact, it’s frequently considered a style of the super-rich. It is simple in form and function, devoid of pointless decorations, yet expensive. You would never say minimalism is a cheap option. Formally, minimalism is 1960s and 1970s invention. However, De Stijl and traditional Japanese design could be considered predecessors of minimalism.

Like with anything in life, minimalist design was influenced by certain things that came before it. Specifically, what influenced minimalist design was:

  1. The De Stijl art movement
  2. Architects like Van Der Rohe
  3. Traditional Japanese design

The De Stijl Movement

The De Stijl art movement had just one goal: To make art that was as simple and as basic as possible. They wanted to distill art to a level of almost scientific precision and perfection. As a result, composition and balance played a huge part in their work, making the De Stijl art movement fairly influential in the next few decades of modern design and modern architecture.

De Stijl pushed for simplicity and abstraction by reducing designs only to its essential form and colour, sticking to only:

  • Horizontal and vertical lines
  • Rectangular forms
  • Primary values white, black, and grey
  • Primary colours blue, red, and yellow

In addition to that, many of the elements or layers don’t intersect, letting each of them to be independent and not covered or interfered by other elements.

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You’ve probably seen De Stijl paintings before, perhaps by Piet Mondrian or Theo van Doesburg. Those paintings are easily recognisable by their squares, rectangles, and limited colours primary colours only, for the most part (pictured above).

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Above are some photos I took from Moma gallery in New York, they feature three examples of De Stijl paintings by an unknown artist. Sadly the gallery didn’t specify who created the paintings, however I thought it was a great opportunity to add some primary research to my blog.

Van Der Rohe

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a German architect who’s considered a pioneer of modern architecture, and his architectural style during post-World War I laid the groundwork for minimalist design.

Seagram Building, New York –

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Barcelona Pavilion, Barcelona –

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Indeed, city skylines from New York to Spain own much to Mies van der Rohe work.

Van der Rohe aimed for simplicity and clarity and his trademark approaches are:

  • The use of modern construction materials like steel and plate glass
  • The reduction of structural frameworks to a minimum
  • The inclusion of lots of open space

Van der Rohe adopted the motto “Less is more” to describe his aesthetic tactic of arranging the necessary components of a building to create an impression of extreme simplicity, he drafted every element and detail to serve multiple visual and functional purposes; for example, designing a floor to also serve as the radiator, or a massive fireplace to also house the bathroom. Van der Rohe’s principles are still in use today, not only in architecture but in design as well.

Traditional Japanese Design

Traditional Japanese design with its simplicity and clean forms is considered another predecessor of minimalism. This is a reflection of Japanese culture itself where simplicity has long been prized, and all that’s not essential to the functionality of a thing is not included in its design. Most of Japanese aesthetics and ideals value simplicity stemming from the Zen philosophy of impermanence and imperfection.

Zen concepts of simplicity transmit the ideas of freedom and essence of living. Simplicity is not only aesthetic value, it has a moral perception that looks into the nature of truth and reveals the inner qualities of materials and objects for the essence.

Zen concepts of simplicity transmit the ideas of freedom and essence of living. Simplicity is not only aesthetic value, it has a moral perception that looks into the nature of truth and reveals the inner qualities of materials and objects for the essence. For example, the dry rock garden in Ryoanji temple demonstrates the concepts of simplicity and the essentiality from the considered setting of a few stones and a huge empty space. Ryoanji, attributed by some scholars to the famous landscape painter and monk Soami, is believed to have oringinally used the concept of shakkei in its design, in which background landscape is incorporated into the composition of the garden.

Apprentice monk rakes the garden at Ryoanji, a Zen temple in Kyoto.  The rock and sand garden embodies Japanese aesthetics-nature at its simplest, art at  its most refined. Japan  Rock garden

The rock and sand garden embodies Japanese aesthetics – nature and at its simplest, art at its most refined.

The list of heroes of minimalism across arts (architecture, painting, music, design) is long. Some of the more prominent minimalists include Buckminster Fuller, Dieter Rams, Donald Judd, John McCracken, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, Robert Morris, Anne Truitt, Frank Stella.

Minimalist Architecture

The roots of minimalism in architecture are often traced back to the mid to late 1950s. The movement was a reaction to new styles of architecture and lifestyle that was being cultivated in the United States. Although minimalsim art has its roots in America, minimalist architecture was born elsewhere. Northern Europe, particularly Scandinavia, and Japan (as I already stated above) are important in the history of minimalist design, and in fact, these places continue to be among the biggest embracers of minimalism.

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Minimalist architects use space as a design feature in and of itself. Instead of trying to fill space with features, they create designs in which the empty space is as carefully thought out and used as everything they add to the room. Basic shapes and straight, clean lines are also important techniques used in minimalist design, as is playing around with different kinds of lighting. The outcome is elegant but without being fussy.

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One common criticism of minimalism in architecture is that it is aesthetically cold and that it creates an unwelcoming home environment. However people who advocate minimalist architecture argue that in fact minimalism is more welcoming than more baroque styles of design. They say that taking the “less is more” approach creates a relaxing, calming environment free of all of the clutter that demands attention in more baroque design styles. Obviously in reality it all comes down to a substantial taste. Some prefer imposing architecture while some prefer simple and clean styles.The principles of minimalism can be applied poorly, which can indeed be stark, but properly employed, minimalism can be elegant and inviting. A few good examples of elegant and inviting minimalism are pictures above which are from my recent trip to New York. (My own photos). The first image is of an apartment which was designed by American architect Neil Denari. The second image is of a clean office building that is in the centre of New York, unfortunatley I am unsure of the name and the architect. The third image is a of the New One World Trade Centre which was recently finished in 2014, and was designed by architect David Childs. The building is a clear visual of a modern minimalistic building that is ‘elegant and inviting’.

A few important architects working in the field of minimalist design include:

  • Lugdwig Mies van der Rohe
  • Buckminster Fuller
  • Dieter Rams
  • Luis Barragan
  • John Pawson
  • Eduardo Souto de Mouro
  • Alvar Siza
  • Yoshi Tanigushi
  • Peter Zumthor
  • Richard Gluckman


Minimalist Photography

Sometimes in the world of photography, less is more. Minimalist photographers know that sometimes it’s important to focus solely on one particular subject, rather than overwhelm the viewer with tons of color and pattern and information. While there are plenty of successful photographers who take “busy” photographs, photographers on the other end of the spectrum including Hiroshi Sugimoto and Hans Hiltermann are successful for completely different reasons. When dealing with minimalism, it’s important to understand the relationship between subject and viewer, texture and pattern, and light and shadow.

Hiroshi Sugimoto


Born in Japan in 1948, Hiroshi Sugimoto is most than just a photographer. Through different bodies of work he has shown many different interests, including minimalistic dioramas, wax portraits and photographing early photographic negatives. His photography tends to blur the lines between painting, illustration, photography, and architecture. From seascapes to natural history dioramas, there’s something about Sugimoto’s photographs that resonates with viewers. Like Kenna, Sugimoto only photographs in black and white. He prints all of his images himself with a great understanding of silver print, creating images with unbelievably beautiful tones of black, white and grey.

Hans Hiltermann

YOU  minimalissimo-hans-hiltermann-you-3  YOU

Hans Hiltermann is a Dutch photographer who was born in 1960. He began his career in photography as an advertising photographer, where he spent his time creating elaborate and artificial scenes used to sell a product. After years of creating these scenes, he finally decided to take his photography in a different direction; instead of spending his time creating elaborate photographs, he decided to figure out what he could say with the minimum amount of visual information. Hiltermann takes realistic portraits of people, all looking straight into the camera. Looking at the stripped back appearance and energy of his models. No make-up and an intense gaze is the base content of ‘YOU’. “What a beautiful concept. I think this explains the work perfectly however that leaves me in a predicament – I am not exactly sure what to add to it. Perhaps that is the beauty of minimalism – it is to the point with little room to stray from the intended message.”


No makeup, no jewelry, no hairdo, no visible clothing, no preference. No smile, no seduction. No reaction. What’s left is a person without a facade. Someone who has completely left his guard down. There is nothing between you.This is amplified by the amazingly detailed, realistic photography. Every little detail is exposed no hiding.



Minimalist Music

In music, the minimalist movement was, like minimal art, a reaction against a then current form, with composers rejecting many of the dry intellectual complexities and the emotional sterility of serial music and other modern forms. Generally, minimalist compositions tend to emphasise simplicity in melodic line and harmonic progression, to stress repetition and rhythmic patterns, and to reduce historical or expressive reference. The use of electronic instruments is common in minimalist music, as are influences from Asia and Africa. Among prominent minimalist composers are Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, La Monte Young, and John Adams.

Phillip Glass 

The American composer Philip Glass continues to have a tremendous impact on contemporary music. His brand of music is often described, much to his chagrin, as minimalism. Glass’s music and his approach to creating it are thoroughly modern, even revolutionary, making him one of the most provocative, commercially successful, and controversial composers of his generation.


With minimalism, Philip Glass invented a new kind of music that attracted an enormous group of people who had never listened to classical music before and, in some cases, who still only listen to his form of it.

Steve Reich

Reich was a leading composer of minimalism in the 1960s and 1970s, Reich continued to expand his compositional resources to achieve striking expressiveness in his vocal pieces in the 1980s. His music, although very complex, was completely accessible.


One of the foremost composers of minimalism, Steve Reich was the creator of “phase” and “pulse” music, both of which rely on the gradual alteration of repetitive rhythmic patterns to create subtle changes in musical texture. Concerned with the manipulation of aural perception, he directed the listener to focus on one of the many rhythmic patterns occurring concurrently in his music by reinforcing one pattern through changes in dynamics and timbre.

Minimalist Painting

Like the minimalist sculptors, minimalist painters strived to create objects with presence, which can be seen at their basic physical appearance and appreciated at face value. Minimalist paintings are usually precise and ‘hard-edged’, referring to the abrupt transitions between color areas. They incorporate geometric forms, often in repetitive patterns, resulting in flat, two-dimensional space. Colour areas are generally of one solid, unvarying colour. Colors were normally unmixed, coming straight from the tube. The colour palette is often limited.


Hyena Stomp 1962 by Frank Stella born 1936

Through this use of only line, solid colour, geometric forms and shaped canvas, the minimalist artists combined paint and canvas in such a way that the two became inseparable.

Well-know minimalist painters from the 1960′s and 1970′s:

  • Ellsworth Kelly
  • Kenneth Noland
  • Robert Ryman
  • Frank Stella
  • Robert Mangold
  • Kazimir Malevich
  • Anthony Carol
  • Robert Ryman
  • Piet Mondrian
  • Ad Reinhardt
  • Josef Albers


Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian, one of the founders of the Dutch modern movement De Stijl, is recognized for the purity of his abstractions and methodical practice by which he arrived at them. He radically simplified the elements of his paintings to reflect what he saw as the spiritual order underlying the visible world, creating a clear, universal aesthetic language within his canvases. In his best known paintings from the 1920s, Mondrian reduced his shapes to lines and rectangles and his palette to fundamental basics pushing past references to the outside world toward pure abstraction. His use of asymmetrical balance and a simplified pictorial vocabulary were crucial in the development of modern art, and his iconic abstract works remain influential in design and familiar in popular culture to this day.




Mondrian’s style can be seen in the developments of the Minimalists of the late 1960s, who also opted for reduced forms and a pared down palette. Not only influential within modern art, Mondrian’s far-reaching impact can be seen across all aspects of modern and postmodern culture, from Yves Saint Laurent’s color-blocking in his Mondrian day dress, to the use of Mondrian’s Neo-Plastic style and palette by the rock band the White Stripes for the cover of their 2000 album, De Stijl, as well as his name as the moniker for three hotels, the “Mondrian” hotel in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.

Josef Albers 

The ‘grandfather’ of Minimalism, Josef Albers was a prolific painter, printmaker, designer, and teacher who illuminated the importance of astute perception and restrained expression. Formerly a teacher at the Bauhaus in Germany, Albers profoundly influenced twentieth-century American art as a teacher at Black Mountain College and Yale University. His famous color course took a radical approach to the application of color in art and design. Rejecting traditional theory, Albers stressed that colour is inherently unstable and dependent on its relationship to adjacent colors. He taught his students, many of whom later became influential artists in their own right to trust their vision and use colour in experimental ways.

Albers-photo-and-work  images


Albers believed that removing all evidence of individual expression creates a more powerful visual impact. In Homage to the Square (pictured above)Albers constructs a subjective experience for the viewer, who perceives each shade of saturated red ink in relation to its adjoining colours. It is an endless exercise of subtle comparison.

Essay Structure – 

After some extensive research in to minimalism, I started to think about, how I could write my essay, and touch up on the points and research I have already come across. So I started to put together an essay structure…



The structure features the points I am going to conclude in ‘whats right for the time’ these are the different sections I will be talking about. Our tutor said it would be a good idea to set out a structure of 10 different sections of 300 words, which overall makes 3,000. This juts makes it easier for writing my essay. However I went for a little change as I am having 8 different sections…

  • Intro Essay – What’s right for the time
  • Methodology
  • Key works / minimalist designers 
  • How has minimalism affected the 20th century
  • How has minimalist design changed overtime 
  • Influences on my work 
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography

Each section will feature around 375 words per section, however this could vary on the sections I write about, so it may not be the same amount of words for each section of my essay. (The bibliography sections does not count as words for the essay)

Here we go!


Intro Essay – What’s right for the time

“This is a personal essay that will look into how minimalism has evolved, and why it still plays a major part in modern society”

I am establishing a chunk of research to create a brochure/book on ‘whats right for the time’ – in minimalism.  Minimalism is one of the most well know pieces of contemporary art in the mid to late 20th century, we still live in a world where minimalism plays a huge part in everyday life as well as design. By looking in to various sources I hope to produce a minimalist book that will feed you with information about why minimalism still plays a major part in todays modern society. I will conduct critical analysis on the brief history of minimalism, and look in to the people who inspired the movement.  I will also research in to the key works of minimalist artists – evaluating what influence their work had on the 21st century.

Its only ever so recently I have started to take a real passion for minimal design, I never really noticed what it was or even paid attention to what it is. However, over the past year or so minimal design has played quite a large part in the work I produce as well as the research I gather.  The purpose of minimal design is to make the content stand out and be the focal point.  From a visual standpoint, minimalist design is calming and brings the mind down to the basics. As minimal design has had a big influence on me over this past year, I want to analyse why it still plays a major part in todays modern society and compare todays minimal design with 20th century where it was a popular and ‘cool’ movement. In this essay I will talk about why minimal design is still as popular as it used to be. What I mean by that is, what role does it play now? What has todays design taken from the 60’s and 70’s minimal design? How has the 21st century implicated minimalism from the 20th century? Although I don’t know the ‘specific’ answer to why minimalism is still massive of part of the world today, I will discuss my own opinions on how its evolved throughout the years, and explore the different minimalist artists and founders to look upon the impact they made in the 60’s 70’s, and how they’ve influenced present society.  I will also investigate the current (today) minimalists, and the impact they currently have on the 21st century, and compare them with the 20th century minimalists.


The best ways in which I can conduct my research are conducting analysis on research studies, and important books including Everything That Remains (, As a Decade Fades (, Live a Meaningful Life ( And finding other information from sources using the internet.

The main body of my research will feature on how the minimal design movement progressed through the 60’s and 70’s through to today, this will back up my reasoning behind why its still a popular and prominent in the 21st century. I should also maybe look into the different works that minimalists have created certain works that have played a big influence on other artists. 

Some key people and mediums I have identified and want to look into further are:

  • Frank Stella.
  • Piet Monderin & Dan Flavin.
  • The roots into minimalism.
  • Key works about minimalistic design.
  • Early minimalism inspirations.
  • Why minimalism is still popular today.

Its a very interesting subject and its something that could be scrutinzed indefinitely but not only do I have a word count to stick to but I don’t want my final book design outcome to become too repetitive and declarative with too much information and put off the reader. My book/brochure should be smooth to achieve without getting thwarted with too much deep absorption, I want my guide to be easy to follow and straight forward to read for everyone, I don’t want the information to overload the reader with too much material. I firmly believe I have chosen a good list of people and mediums to look into to argue my point, but however it could change as I manage my research and find new possible routes that I might go down. 

What is minimalism? Brief indication

The Minimalist design movement is one of the most significant design movements of the 20th century and early 21st century. It isn’t the flashiest, or the most popular, but it arguably penetrated more fields than almost any other art or design trend. Everything from user interfaces, to hardware designs, to cars, to films and games, to the web and visual designs of today all those fields and more were influenced by minimalism. The focus on simplicity spilled over into painting, interior design, fashion, and music. That’s how the following were formed and are now commonplace: minimal painting, minimal music, the minimalism school of composing, and so forth. Painter Frank Stella was quoted as saying, ‘What you see is what you see’. Minimal art in particular especially grew in the 1960s in America. Minimalism is not, in itself, the most popular artistic trend. However, it is nonetheless a major twentieth century movement that continues to inspire and influence the majority of creative activities today, particularly in the field of design. In fact, the history of minimalism and design are intimately linked. Minimalism strips away the unneeded to focus on the essential. This is a philosophy often shared by designers, whose job is to create within the dictates of form and function. An intellectual closeness that explains why, more than ever before, minimalism has established itself as a dominant trend in the world of design, irrespective of the field of application: architecture, interior design, and graphics.

Key works / minimalist designers 

Minimalists wanted their viewer to experience their work without the distractions of composition, theme, and other elements of traditional work. The medium and materials of the work was its reality, and was what Minimalist artists wanted to portray. The basis being on a works presence, the materials used were not intended to symbolise anything else. The work strived to evoke a response from the viewer in terms of the relationship between the various elements of the work. Minimalist artists rejected the idea that art should reflect the personal expression of its creator. There was a lack of emotion and subconscious decision-making in minimalist art, hiding the presence and feelings of the artists. Rather, the artists believed that the viewers personal reaction to the object was of higher importance, and thus strove to eliminate the presence of the creator in their work

Minimalism questioned the nature of art and its place in society. However some people deemed Minimalist art to be unapproachable and empty, others saw the revolutionary concept and strong affect that minimalist theory had on post-modern art.

arth280084  StellaBlk

Key works and influences on minimalism are artists such as  Frank Stella who was the first painter and print maker associated with the minimalist style. Stella’s work in the late 1950s and early 1960s followed his belief that a painting was nothing more than flat surface with paint on it. This philosophy is evident in his painting titled “Die Fahne Hoch” The painting was made by dividing the canvas into equal parts from each edge.  His purpose in applying an emotional title to this work of abstract geometry was to challenge the idea of meaning. This piece is housed in the Whitney Museum of American Art.


Piet Mondrain’s composition of Red, Blue, Yellow and White, was made before the official start of the minimalist art moment in the late 1950s. It is the beginning of the non figurative style of painting that grows into the minimalist movement. This painting contains the geometric forms, lack of depth and fields of colour associated with minimalism.

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Dan Flavin was an American artist and pioneer of Minimalism, best known for his seminal installations of light fixtures. Flavin’s work consists of few materials colour, light, and space. What he managed to do with these seemingly simple elements has amounted to an important and lasting legacy that changed the course of 20th century art. His dedication to simple forms, use of industrial materials, and symbolic meaning had a profound impact on the Minimalist generation of artists, notably including Donald Judd and Sol LeWitt. Key works include, “Sail 1986”, “untitled (to Barnett Newman) two, 1971”, “Untitled (for you Leo, in long respect and affection) 4, 1978”, “untitled (To Pat and Bob Rohm), 1969” “The Diagonal of May 25, 1963” Flavin’s legacy is less about his work as a significant Minimalist artist than it is in his ability to look beyond the movement. More directly, Flavin’s experiments paved the way for other light artists, including Robert Irwin and James Turrell.

How has minimalism affected the 20th century

Minimalism played a massive part in the 20th century, however it it was influenced by things that came before it… Among them,  Ludwig Mies van der Rohe who was one of the first prominent architects to utilise minimal design principles. He was sustained by the availability of the materials post World War I, such as concrete, glass, and steel, minimalism took root. The De Stijl art movement, which began in the Netherlands in 1917 and lasted until around the 1930s. The movement aimed for simplicity, reducing designs to their essential forms. Buckminster Fuller, another prominent twentieth century architect and inventor, designed domes using simple geometric shapes that still look modern today.

mies-van-der-rohe  The_Barcelona_Pavilion,_Barcelona,_2010

While the focus on simplicity began with architecture, it soon spilled over into art, interior design, and even fashion and music.

arar_minimalism_01_v  apple-simple-logo-blue-minimal-34-iphone6-plus-wallpaper  Barnett Newman 1905-1970 - Voice of Fire, 1967 - Tutt'Art@

Minimalism has entered virtually every corner of life and is apparent all around us from the sleek designs of the iPhones we use to the cars we drive, to the Internet and visual designs we see and interact with every day. While the focus on simplicity began with architecture, it soon spilled over into art, interior design, and even fashion and music. Although minimalist art reached its peak during the 1960s and 1970s, its principles still have a huge impact on virtually every level of society. As one example, minimalism has carried over into the digital realm and is an increasingly important part of web design today.

How has minimalist design changed overtime 

Ever since the days of Van Der Rohe, Frank Stella, and Donald Judd, minimalism has changed massively in terms of the way its being presented and showcased. Obviously the minimalist movement played a massive part in the 60’s and 70’s, but stalled around the later 20th century, however I think its still as popular as ever, what I’m trying to say its not as noticed as it used to be, but deep down its a massive part of everyday design, as well as life. In the mid 20th century, minimalists such as the ones I mentioned above, didn’t have materials such as phones, computers, the internet etc. We have implicated minimal design in to technology itself, elements such as iPhones, Mac’s, and iPads all use clean minimal design. Web design is a key component on how far minimal design has come, at the beginning in the mid 21st century, echoes of the minimalist art movement began to appear in web interfaces: larger swaths of negative space, lower amounts of content, and restricted colour palettes. Google is often credited as the pioneer of minimalist web interfaces. Google has prioritised simplicity and austerity in its interfaces ever since its beta offering in the 1990s. Now minimalist design principles are now showing up in new and unexpected places: e-commerce sites, online publications, and even educational sites are adopting minimalist trends and strategies. This just shows how much minimal design has changed since the early to mid 20th, even though its rather unnoticeable.


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Why it’s still playing a part today

Near enough everywhere you turn, another designer is realising a piece of work, or even a project displaying  minimalist design style. The focus on white space, simplicity, and beautiful typography is exhilarating, and its a great preference for a number of designs, and design projects. I think this could be one of the main logics why minimalist is still popular/playing a major part in todays modern society.

However the minimalist trend is not brand new as we already know. Minimalism has been around almost as long as design itself. It’s a style that goes back-and-forth, but always remains as one of the classic styles, making it a design choice that almost always works.

The minimalist designs of the current period aren’t that much different than in many other eras. The identifier is often how minimalism is used with other trends. So right now you are likely to see a minimalist framework with elements of flat design or with a video or with a full screen header or with card style elements. Actual minimalist concepts don’t really change all that much. Many designers, regardless of the time period, often create projects mainly using white and black colour schemes, lots of space especially for the borders and around the central image, and sans serif typography. That’s not to say these are requirements of minimalist design, but they are quite common attributes, regardless of time period.

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What we are really seeing with minimalism right now is a specific focus on one bit of content, without competition from other elements. This could be a photo, logo or simple block of text. Elements such as navigation or contact information or footers are almost hidden in the design. Designers are also beginning to incorporate animations into website designs using minimalism. While this can be tricky the animations must be subtle it can draw a beautiful connection between classical and modern design.

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The other major minimalism trend is text size. Designers are opting for dramatic sizing super small or big lettering with stack backgrounds and simple images. The high contrast is great for creating focus in a simple structure and attention on the ‘right’ content within the design.

Influences on my work 

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This investigation has had a massive influence on the work I produce, I mean I hardly knew about about minimalism a few years ago, but ever since coming across it I’ve always looked to incorporate the style in to the work I produce. As a student who is studying Graphic Design I have been inspired by the certain present minimalists, such as Mike Joyce, Neville Brody, Emile Ruder and Saul Bass. Saul Bass having quite a large influence on the work I produce, his visually simple but impactfull poster designs are the contrary of minimalism and the “less is more” school of design thought in which original typography and graphics are the basis of the artwork. His high contrast, action-packed movie poster designs of the 1960’s are particular works of art that people use as examples of high art movie posters. The resurgence of his unique illustrative style that was based in strong concept and idea is apparent in many of the posters we are seeing in 2016.

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Minimal design does not only have an influence on myself but on others too, Apple for example a massive worldwide multinational technology company, they use clean minimal design amongst their products and designs, the Apple Mac is a minimal product as well as iPads and iPhones, Apple have taken minimalism to whole new level with their minimal products and designs.


Minimalism is one of the design trends that just never gets old. The simplicity of it makes minimalism easy to incorporate into a number of other styles and trends. It is classic and classy. It works with and emphasises  many different types of content. Minimalist design will continue to take over website, app and print design. It will evolve and change as design preferences always do, but the roots of the technique will remain. This investigation, answers a few of my questions on why minimalism is still appraise for today, but not all of them. Like I said at the start of the the essay I will not know the ‘specific’ answer to the question, and I still don’t know the exact reason why, I mean its such a popular trend today its hard to say one specific reason why! Throughout the investigation I have talked about the key influences as well as most importantly suggesting ‘whats right for the time’ or in other words is minimalism still as popular/plays a major part in today modern society. I personally think from the study and reasons I have given, I have come up with solid solutions on analysing ‘whats right for the time’.



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