📅July 1, 2019
📝565 words — ⏱2 mins 50 secs

Minimalism — My Interpretation and Manifesto

Minimalism in practice has existed for thousands of years, but only recently has it started to become known for what it is. The reason being that cultural norms have shifted1 towards accumulation and acquisition, not necessarily in the sense of mementos but instead marketed “solutions” to problems that may not exist, or in extreme cases harm the user under the guise of convenience.2

The best example of this I can think of is the “internet of things” phenomenon. It’s widely considered normal now to have an internet connected refrigerator. More and more appliances are having non-trivial electronics embedded within them and being networked. And with this comes a whole host of vulnerabilities and the potential for data misuse by the manufacturers.

Flat design and the breakthrough of minimalism in UI

Prior to the advent of flat design, user interfaces were most commonly skeumorphic — designed to reflect real-world analogs. This was largely skin deep, an e-reader application might make use of leather and paper textures to simulate the look-and-feel of a real book, or buttons might be rendered with gloss and shadow to imitate real-world objects.

Then, things changed. Interfaces started to strip things back to their basics. Strong colors replaced textures, inner shadows and highlights became a thing of the past. Drop shadow began to be a rarity - used only to communicate depth where necessary.

Of course, this shift was met with some criticism. As brands started to reinvent themselves visually, there were many poor attempts and instances of companies making unnecessary changes to follow the curve.

Minimalism as a process, not a product

In recent years, minimalism has become something of an aesthetic trend, with companies producing products which conform to a stripped-bare aesthetic. However, it is insufficient to describe minimalist philosophy as solely a visual style. Instead, I interpret it as a system of evaluation which can (with minimal adjustment) be applied to just about anything — programming3, art or decor.

I define my process of minimalism as encapsulating evaluation of the following questions:

  • Is $THING actively used or will it see use in the future?
  • Does $THING bring me or those who I share my life with significant, unique happiness?
  • Is $THING maximally accessible?4
  • Is $THING ethically produced?5
  • Does anything else provide the same functionality as $THING with fewer side effects?6

Above all else, I feel that minimalism is a deeply personal concept and something that can only be given meaningful definition to oneself after serious introspection and the recognition of a need to find organization and clarity in an area of one’s life.

  1. Read: “we live in a society”

  2. Certain proprietary software falls into this category.

  3. The “UNIX philosophy” and “KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid!” both exist as applications of minimalist philosophy to software.

  4. Accessible not only to myself, but to anyone who might conceivably use the item.

  5. Taking into account sustainability and the ethics of the production of the item.

  6. We define side effects as behavior of the item which is unintentional or detrimental, taking into account ethics, accessibility and concisity, as well as other factors.