Minimalism versus being a MNMLST

The following is a guest post by Bryan Cromlish. Bryan is currently the Online Community Manager with Engine Communications. He can be pretty active on Twitter @bcromlish. I really appreciate Bryan’s willingness to offer a different perspective on something I wrote about a few weeks ago – really adds a lot of depth to the conversation. Enjoy, and share some of your own thoughts in the comments below.

Ever since Matt wrote a post about Minimalism recently, I’ve had a hard time getting my head around the subject.  I have heard about it before and have actually heard about most of the minimalists mentioned, but I wondered, is minimalism actually everywhere or something us ‘Lifestyle Design-Types’ are honing in on?

Matt wrote that the minimalist trend isn’t rising, it’s here, it’s everywhere around us. We’re living in a society that ultimately wants less. We’re condensing our wants to meet our needs – and in a world in which we are absolutely inundated and bombarded with information – we value simple and effective over flash and glamour.

Considering I see life primarily through a marketing lens, I wasn’t sure if I was hit in the face with an epiphany on new-age consumerism or something seemed off with the statement. As it turns out, it is a bit of both! Right from the beginning it seemed like an over generalization about consumer attention and buying behaviors, and I decided to go all left-brain and analyze what is going on here.

Minimalism should be divided into two forms, minimalist design (visual art, architecture, etc.) and minimalism as a lifestyle (living principles). I feel like the two should be discussed separately in order for people to make sense about what is going on here.


The term minimalism describes American art and design movements beginning in the late 60s where the work was stripped down to only its fundamentals.  Work by Piet Mondrian can give you a good idea of what minimalist design is all about.  Even though advertising can be artistic in nature, for the most part it should be kept separate from being associated with actual art.

We were too quick to call well-designed ‘negative space’ layouts on products, magazines and websites as being minimalism.  Aesthetic composition in order to sell more products, gain more readers or increase page views is not minimalism.  It is true that the proper use of white space, for example, can be more effective for drawing the eye than cluttered flash and glamour.

It comes down to selling products. If everyone is going with flash and glamour then it makes sense to use more negative space in order to stand out.  It is also all about who your target market is – you will see a lot of upscale brands using this to communicate an elegant or classic appearance.


This phenomenon of living a minimalist lifestyle is adventurous, but it is also brilliant marketing!  I am sure there is much more to minimalism than not having many material goods. I see how less clutter in one’s life could be mentally exhilarating.

One of the main principals is that you are free to travel and move with little restriction. I’m all for less restriction. Heck, it only seemed right to work on this post without pants on!  But, why don’t these people write blogs, sell books or tweet about being a new-age nomad? Because… being a nomad doesn’t sound sexy.

Thus, Minimalists have created a mental framework for people to identify with and associated benefits to that framework in order to sell their books. That sounds like pretty good marketing to me.

Closing Thoughts

I think Chuck Westbrook said it best in his comments: “We’re living in a society that ultimately wants less.”

Nope. We live in a society that has more debt than ever before, has more stuff than ever before, eats more food than ever before, and scatters its attention out to more than ever before.

What are your thoughts? Does this change your opinion of minimalism?