02.22.08

josef_muller_brockmann.jpg

This is something I have wanted to talk about for some time now. I have realized that the blogs people like are the ones where people speak their minds, so here I go. No holds barred.

I had a brief conversation with one of the proprietors of the local sneaker shop/design firm The 400 tonight about this very subject. I have predicted for a while now that the inevitable backlash to the sketchy, crazy, pattern-heavy, super-colorful, graf-inspired, skateboarding, out of LA, monsters, skulls, over-the-top, out of my sketchbook, I just learned how to use illustrator, photoshop-collage, watch me use the glow filter trend, would be a return to minimalism. Black and white, primary colors, simple diagonals, circles and clean typography.

I have been waiting in the wings now to see an interest resurface in people like Herbert Bayer. I fell in love with him and his work in college. Of course Alexander Rodchenko has already been a strong influence on people like Shepard Fairey, but you can’t really call Rodchenko’s work minimalism. However you can definitely draw a line from Rodchenko’s work to De Stijl and eventually the almighty Bauhaus (and I am not talking about the band). Although the Bauhaus and people like Jan Tschichold, Herbert Matter, Piet Zwart and Bradbury Thompson are all still profound influences on modern design, regardless of whether or not young designers have been educated as to their prior existence, the real heavy hitter I am of course referring to is the International Typographic Style also known as The Swiss Style.

It is at that particular point in design history that you see a pretty distinct shift that has overwhelmingly influenced what you could call modern graphic design and typography. If minimalism does return in the sense that young designers would understand, it would most likely be influenced by the International Typographic Style. When I first saw the work of Josef Muller Brockmann, my life as a Graphic Designer and Typographer was forever changed. There was a simplicity in form combined with typography that conveyed a level of purity to which I had not yet encountered at the time. It was there that I really became hooked on Graphic Design and Typography.

So why do you ask, is there not more of that influence visible in my work? Well that is a complicated question, and the short answer is that trendy design sells. So call me a sell out. However, I really do think minimalism will begin making a strong comeback and you can already see the undercurrent if you look closely. Already clothing and shoe designers are toning down their colors and materials. I think when things are reduced to their essence a certain clarity comes about that people are craving right now. We need something more cerebral. We need to cut out the clutter and find zen. So don’t be surprised to see more and more of less and less starting to surface. The great thing is, when you cut things down to purity of form it isolates the people who like to hide behind style posing as substance. You really have to know what you are doing to work with pure elements and still produce something attractive that communicates.

So I am digging out my books because I think a new trend will soon emerge and it is one that I am a lot more comfortable with and will be more than happy to participate in.

written by Christopher | tags: , ,

7 Responses to “The Return of Minimalism”

  1. jamie tallerico Says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your post! I want to see minimalism come back in a big way! I guess cause I work in the clothing industry. I am just tired of most of the stuff out there. I feel there is not enough sophisticated stuff going on. But i am old too. I also don’t listen to my music super loud either.

  2. Tyler Says:

    Nice post chris….

  3. Fry Says:

    Well said my friend.

  4. Jimmy Says:

    I’m sorry, but this post just annoys me. You act like you’re one of the few lucky enough to actually be in the know about such incredibly influential designers as Joseph Muller-Brockmann. Somehow, you’ve been graced with knowledge of the graphic design industry before 1995. Do you really look at yourself like some sort of voice of reason in this world of chaos? Because I’m not sure if you’re aware, but the reality is it’s becoming the “cool” thing now, and for quite some time, to hate collagey sketchy nonsense and to encourage minimalism. You are riding the wave now too, just like before – you’re not stirring the waters. Go back to your desk and start creating some minimalist, JM-B rip-off, then in a decade you can complain about the lack of color in the design world.

    ps – if you’re so down to try and change things, maybe everything you post on this dinky blog shouldn’t be fanning the flames of this so-called trend. – peace!

  5. Christopher Says:

    Ahh, yes, finally someone’s real opinion expressed in full. Too bad ‘Jimmy’ couldn’t leave his real name and email though so I could answer him directly. That is one thing about the internet that pisses me off to no end, anytime anyone wants to come clean and say what they really feel, they have to do it anonymously, thereby nulling the validity of that opinion. Oh well.

    I make no claim to be any kind of voice of reason. If you are looking for that, you’ll need more than just some guy’s blog. You can describe the blog as dinky too, that is probably appropriate since I am the only person posting to it right now. So, dinky would probably be the right word for one guy trying to hold it down.

    I know it is becoming popular to go back to minimalism but the collage thing is still pretty red hot right now and in high demand from the client side of the industry.

    I was already doing a lot of ‘JM-B rip-off’ work in college because that was my biggest inspiration when I came out of school. That was back in 2000. I am just glad to see it is slowly making a comeback. Not just in print but in fashion as well. I wouldn’t really say it has been ‘quite some time now’ either, at least not in the U.S.

    I had an extensive 3 year education in design history while I was in college. We had a history course for every semester we studied design that was paired with the rest of our coursework. Since I have been out of school and have worked in advertising, publishing and web design I have encountered very few students who had almost any background in design history. I wish it was a more mandatory part of most college curriculums.

    Also, I post what I like, and since that is all based singularly off of my subjective opinion, it isn’t really influenced by any single trend, it’s more influenced by how I am feeling on any particular day I am posting and what I personally find inspiring. As I grow and change, so will the blog.

    And don’t apologize for expressing your opinion, I encourage that. If you think I suck, I can deal with it. I put myself out there and it doesn’t surprise me one bit if someone thinks that. When you open yourself to the public forum you have to expect that some people are just going to hate you. Like I have said before, if you don’t like my opinion, don’t read my blog. That really is all you are reading, is one ‘dinky’ guy’s opinion. – peace!

  6. Anthony Says:

    A couple opinions from me:

    1. I think some ‘designers’ use minimalism as a crutch. I also think that the programs have become a crutch… pounding out designs with CS is so easy that often there isn’t a whole lot of self-restraint used. So of course I would like to see well thought-out designs come back in fashion, but the tools don’t encourage that sentiment.

    2. Personally, I enjoy all cycles of design. But I agree that the ‘middle school art’ phenom of hand drawn, pop patterns, and 8-bit design is being beat to death; still not close to dead. It’s still fun.

    3. I still enjoy the use of colors. I don’t want to see a return to the muted earth tones of the 90′s yet. Black and white will always be cool because less is mo.

    4. Jimmy is a hater. Haters often hate out of love for a subject. I don’t mind passionate people, but passion can make people lose perspective. What would design be without any new perspectives?

    5. Werk is good.

  7. paul Says:

    whilst Josef Muller Brockman is one of the most influential designers of current times, you have to realise that he is not trying to design as such, his work is all about visual communication, and the understanding of clarity within design. His work has influenced designers such as Peter Saville, another designer who thinks out of the box, his lectures and teachings show people how to innovate and imitators are not invited.

    JMB definitive piece of work i feel is his Swiss Railways manual, the simplicity of his design explains what graphic design is about, communicating with the public in an understandable and fresh way.

    And as for minimalism, that is a totaly different thing altogether, as it is an art movement in the 1960′s which rejected art with a meaning, minimalism was not designed for any purpose it was designed with no rules and no objectives. The total comparison of what JMB was trying to do.

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