Tuesday, 07 October 2014 17:00

Less Is More: Why Taking Away From Your Design Adds More Value

Think Small by VW Think Small by VW

Beginner designers too often feel the need to overdo their designs attempting to make them look artistic or elaborate.

We have all heard the expression “less is more”. Usually, this is said to mean ‘cheaper is better’. In truth, however, “less is more” isn’t about spending less money.

It is about achieving better design through simplicity. It is about finding the greatest impact through subtraction and restraint.

Newborn creatives try and mask their infancy with flashy graphics and elaborate typefaces. I too, was guilty of this when first starting out.

All this really does, unfortunately, is overcrowd and overcomplicate the piece. Just because a design is simple doesn’t mean its basic or uncomplex. '

Having too many elements in design gives the viewer too much to digest and takes away from the other elements in the piece and the design as a whole. 

In my own work, I tend to lean towards the minimal. I like my objects to have some breathing room so to be better appreciated. I like my open spaces to have as much impact as the stuff that fills them. The real art is to create spaces within your work that are open but not empty.

Before you get to work designing, it is crucial to first have a clear purpose or message behind your design. Defining the purpose early on helps you to stay on track and select only elements that most illustrate your message.

When adding something new, ask yourself:

  • Is this really needed or am I just filling up space?
  • Will this be distracting from my work’s message?

Anything you add that does not directly enhance to your message can be a distraction. Remember, effective design is visual communication. What message are the elements in your work communicating?

Once your message is clear, choose a single high-quality or stand-out image and let it, well, stand out.

A single bright red object on a monochromatic gray color scheme, for example, is way more impactful on its own. Adding another object the same color red would dilute the effect, not add to it.

Choose additional complimentary objects, graphics or typefaces that are simple or pure in design. They won’t be boring. In fact, they will compliment the other objects tying the whole piece together beautifully.

In this stage taking hierarchy into consideration is extra important.

Since there are less objects on your page each element gets extra attention. In general, you only have a few seconds to convey your message to the viewer before he or she has moved on to the next thing. The way you use different sizes and weights creates a path that leads the viewer through the page confidently so they are confident they’re heading in the right direction.

I do not mean to scare you, but every detail has major significance and what you remove from your work is just as important as what you add. With clean, simple designs, your mistakes are magnified. When placing or arranging objects be sure to follow sound fundamentals of grids and layouts.

All this takes practice, but don’t let my warnings scare you. It can be very fulfilling to see improvements in design aesthetics through subtraction. Even if you aren’t going for a minimalist look in your next piece, ask yourself what is essential to the message you are trying to convey and what could possibly be removed to enhance that message even further.

Happy designing!

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Erik Rosner

Content Strategist

Erik brings a unique talent for writing to our team, using his creative skills in creating and curating content to encourage user engagement in our client's brands and ours. 

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