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Minimalist design: A market driven design solution?

Minimalist design: A market driven design solution?

By Dr Amit Ray

The modern-day lifestyle is surrounded by minimalist design solutions. Not only is this design solution aesthetically practical, it is also economically beneficial.

What is a minimalist design?

The design looks elegant. It is quite different from the traditional design; the focus is simplicity, ease of use, and ease of service. Minimalism movements in the early 1960’s in New York wanted to rediscover themselves separate from the age-old traditional practices. Minimalist design created a new vernacular for the modern-day lifestyle, especially for the metropolitan habitat.

The energy of the newly found style became the genesis of a new movement that started questioning the conventional horizon of art forms. Picasso’s The Bullhead introduced a very new concept of sculpture composition using a bicycle seat and bicycle handle. Both components are manufactured in a factory ‘readymade’. This piece gave a new direction to the future modern art.

From mass-produced to minimalist

The 1914 readymades of Marcel Duchamp and the conception of the Russian Constructivism movement in 1913 by Vladimir Tatlin were both also inspired by factory manufactured and prefabricated consumer products. The mass-produced factory products earned respect as an aesthetic.

However, the simplicity of minimalism became the source of a new aesthetic appeal; a straight line is considered beautiful. The Platonic solids (3D geometric forms) became the source of a new constructive style of work. The appearance of the minimalistic design dominates the urban lifestyle across the globe. It was baptised as international work which did not associate with any cultural identity. Still, the greatest beneficiary of minimalism is the creation of ‘modular structure’ design.

The economic logic of modularity

Modular Design or “modularity in design” is an approach that divides a design into smaller parts called modules. Consequently, each module can be independently created and then used in the different design processes to drive multiple functionalities. This allows one to organically develop new combination and orientation depending on the available space and environment.

Modular design has drastically reduced costs, shortened processing time, encouraged standardisation, and increased ease of servicing for innumerable products. Each smaller part can be replaced without affecting the entire structure. Further, each part of the total design may be manufactured by a different vendor, which creates larger employment opportunity and a wider scale of production. The modular design balances economic utility with aesthetic.

A historic balance

The Classical Greek Architecture (3rd – 4th BC) created a different balance: that between ratios and proportion. This has become an inherent challenge of the design process. Striking the right balance between simplicity and decorative quality achieves this paramount ‘elegance and grace’. It is the most difficult task to create the desired tradeoff so that products do not reflect the domination of uniform machine-manufactured products.

The ‘profit and loss’ fundamental philosophy of commerce enjoyed the fruits of the new movement. It does not reflect the tastes of different cultural ethos. The multistoried architecture and mass produced products based on minimalist design remained largely industry supported creative design. Humans have adopted artificial conditions. The ambience of carpeted floor, the modular kitchen and the modern bedroom indirectly dominate our nature lifestyle.

A lack of emotion?

Unfortunately, the appearance and attractiveness of products have lost the human touch. Earlier design traditions based on homemade craft culture remained neighbourhood culture-centric where the designers and craftsmen could feel the emotion of the people around. The international style of product design does not require such closeness with the customer. One can design in Milan, manufacture in Faridabad and sale in Brazil. The field survey is outsourced to an agency that conducts the survey and sends the data to the company who in turn follow the design process without being directly in contact with the people.

Striking balance between minimalist design (straight line) and decorative design (curve line) is the most important aspect of the modern design. Fortunately, in the recent period, designers have realised the need for such synthesis. The beauty of the curvature, if controlled and melded with a straight line, will produce the aesthetic beauty that has remained absent for the last few decades.

Hence, the synthesis of curved line and a straight line will introduce a new vernacular to our lifestyle. The manufacturing process must rethink its production methodology to accommodate this. The introduction of minimalist design has created positive economic impact but comes with the challenge of retaining human emotion in design.

Dr Amit Ray is a Professor in Design at Shiv Nadar University.

 Feature Image Source: Pixabay



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