The Problem with Minimalism

The current state of design encourages a strict adherence to severe simplicity, and it is hamstringing our creative evolution

Many people think of the Japanese when they think of minimalism. Clean lines, zen simplicity, the careful, deliberate brushstrokes of a master. What people forget is that Japan is also the fount of arguably the most outrageous maximalist design in the world. For every Marie Kondo, there’s a Yayoi Kusama. For every zen garden, there’s a Hachikō Square.

This apparent contrast speaks to the natural balance between complexity and simplicity. According to history, one is an inevitable reply to the prevalence of the other. Too much chaos and one craves order. Too much order and one can feel stifled. To find out how we as designers came to conclude that minimalism is the better design discipline, it’s important to start at the beginning.

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