Wednesday, January 19, 2011

3 Reasons Why Less IS More

In art school, one of my teachers always said "less is more". I didn't understand that. I always wanted to add more and more to any design. I figured that you should always strive to make things better. The truth is you make things better by taking away, not adding more. This goes for designers and for those thinking about design. Think about Apple. From their website, to their stores, to their packaging and their products, Apple decided that the best way to brand themselves was to keep a less-is-more approach to everything they do. Many have tried to emulate Apple, but Apple does it best because it's enveloped everything they do, not just parts of what they do. Here are 3 reasons why it's the best way to go.

1. It's More Attractive
It's that simple. Clean and sleek design is that much more attractive. It's got everything you need with none of the clutter, which is what many websites and designs (in general) suffer from. This approach is easier on the eyes and it's easier to navigate through which leads me to the next reason.

2. It Gets Your Message Across
Design is a language and in any given design it is giving a message about a product, a service or a person. With the less-is-more approach there is no guessing. The design clearly speaks the message to the audience and the first part of the job is done.

3. It Teaches You To Work With Less
Some might say that the less-is-more approach looks easy and that anyone can do it. My question to them is... "Have you ever chipped away at a block of stone?". Let me explain. Think of any design idea as a block of stone. Now in that block of stone is your design and you have to chip away at the stone until the true essence, the absolute most important information is left. This takes time and a great sense of design to be able to do. It's not easy, in fact, in can be down right frustrating. But with practice it comes more naturally and the solution is found with less chips and more chops to reveal the best.

And this goes for illustration as well. Some of the best work I've ever seen works with the less-is-more approach. Take a look at Pascal Campion's work below. I had the pleasure of meeting Pascal last year and he gave me some tips on how to focus more on the emotion rather than linger on the illustration itself. Beautiful, right?Conclusion
As you can see the less-is-more approach works. Don't think that adding more clutter to your website, logo or illustration will help it look better. Think of the block of stone and try to chip away at it until the most beautiful essence of your design is revealed. And pass on this information to your friends and family. Let it be known that less is more.

Happy Designing,

Dennis (aka tanoshiboy)

Do you have any great examples (design or illustration) of the less-is-more approach? Share links and examples here in the comments section so we can all see. Or do you still think this is a lazy approach to design? We want to hear that argument too. :)

20 comments:

Jennifer Bower said...

Super great article and I couldn't agree more with the 'less-is-more' premise. As a fledgling artist still trying to define my style I find that I have to work really hard at self-editing. I tend to want to 'do-dah' up every surface in my projects. This was helpful and thank you for posting.

Dennis Salvatier said...

Hey Jen, great to see you here again. I'm glad an illustrator was the first to comment. And believe me, even after all these years, I still struggle with it in my work sometimes.

Jeannette Paladino said...

Less is more applies to writing, too. That's why Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" is a perennial best-seller. The authors constantly admonish writers to leave out extraneous words. It's a great book and I highly recommend to anyone who wants to improve his/her writing.

Dennis Salvatier said...

Great example. I'm glad you went in another direction, because this topic is universal.

Michaele Razi said...

Totally! Less is more is definitely more. Such an easy rule to remember when I'm struggling with a composition. Thanks Dennis!

Freckles said...

Just found your blog!! Super sweet! I totally agree, less is more. It helps you focus on an emotion primarily which is the most important thing!

Dennis Salvatier said...

@michaele you're always welcomed.

@Freckles I love your name. Reminds me of Lost. Glad you found the blog. And glad you like it. Please check out all the past posts and chime in. I'm curious what brought you here. Glad to have you.

Rob Berman said...

I agree that less is more. Think about when you read. Does someone get to the point or do they belabor it? Design is a language that speaks to us.

Rob

Dennis Salvatier said...

Absolutely. It brings to mind tag lines in advertising like "Just do it" and "Where's the beef". Message received.

New Internet Horizons for Small Businesses said...

"Less is more" is applicable, as you say, to so many things. There is a gal I went to HS with (a LONG time ago) who showed up at our 30th reunion looking like Mimi from the Drew Carey show. I hope she doesn't read this LOL. But honestly, how could she have looked in the mirror and thought green eye shadow up to her eyebrows looked good? Thanks for sharing your insights - online and off :)

Susan Oakes said...

Hi Dennis,

I really do agree with this post, not only regarding design but in all aspects of marketing. I keep note of the KISS idea and the reason why is that it works.

Janine said...

Great post Dennis. I must admit it took me a while to convert to Apple but I totally agree with what you have stated. The more and more I use their products the more I am impressed by the user-friendliness and un-clutteredness. Simple really is bess.

Heather Fonseca said...

As a general rule I agree with you completely. My own style is very minimal, but then I like to add some whimsy to it too. Design can get TOO minimal sometimes. Apple is clean a cool, but it's technological stuff and you want it to look space age. With what I do, doll design, I struggle with putting enough stuff on my designs to make them interesting and compelling. I find that super minimalism is just kind of boring on a doll. I need to really work on throwing a lot of different elements to make the design work really well.

Love,
Heather
http://heathersdesignblog.com/

Catherine Lockey said...

Dennis, Less is more is something my art director tries to impart to our clients all the time. Many people don't understand that adding more "stuff" to a website design makes it harder to navigate. Here's one unsullied example we're proud of http://www.AnimationPA.com.

Dennis Salvatier said...

@Julie Haha...I do hope she doesn't somehow stumble onto this post.

@Susan KISS the band? Gene Simmons is a genius. Not much of anything else, but a hell of a marketing genius.

@Janine This wasn't apple commercial, per se, but I'm glad you're enjoying their stuff, Janine. :)

Sarah Wu said...

I agreed with you totally. I love clean and simple design too. Less is more but sometime that's not what all clients thinks. haha

Dennis Salvatier said...

@Heather I totally understand when it comes to dolls. I think there are always exceptions to the rule. Fashion is one of those things that can go either way. I see designs from the 60s that were both really busy and super simple and they both work.

@Catherine Especially when it comes to the web, you want to keep things simple and easy to navigate. Every visit to the site should be regarded as someones first exposure to what you do so make it easy to understand and easy to navigate through. Thanks for sharing.

Dennis Salvatier said...

@Sarah No kidding, right? I just had one client beg me to make her design look like crap. I did it, but no one will ever see that work and I'll never admit to it. It's the last time I'll work with her too.

Sherryl Perry said...

Apple is an excellent example of a less-is-more approach. Thanks Dennis. You really made your point with your pictures.

Keyuri Joshi (on the ball parent coach) said...

I really like the picture you used to convey your point. It is "active" yet simple and highly effective. I, for one, feel the aura of a migraine any time there is too much to my eye! Simplicity speaks!