How little is too little? A quick look at minimal product designs.

In the past few days, I’ve been looking at a lot of minimally designed products. Braun, Apple, IKEA, water bottles, sports cars, speakers and what not.

Looking at all these “minimally designed” products, I began to wonder about what minimalism in design means. Does it mean stripping a product off all aesthetic features or does it mean only having features which aid the function? If it is the latter, how is it different from the philosophy of “Form follows Function”? Then, does it mean that products designed function-first are minimal? Not all the time.

So when do we call a design minimal? Well, I realized that there is not a definite answer to that and it is mostly subjective; what is minimal to you might not necessarily be minimal to me. So, as a small exercise, I chose different product categories and looked at 3 different designs within that category: too minimal, minimal, too much.

Too minimal: The design was too simple for my preference. In-fact, too simple that I did not like the product. It just looked bland…

Minimal: The designs in this category were minimal, with not many extraneous features added-on for aesthetics. These were the ones I liked the most.

Too much: These products just had too many details in their designs. Mostly for aesthetics and for a “cool” factor. I like many products in this category too, but if I had to buy something, this category wouldn’t be my first preference.

The following examples are in the same order as above.

Phones

While I adore the Nexus 5’s simplicity, the iPhone’s simple design evokes more interest.

Nexus5

iphone5LamboPhone

Computer CPUs

The simple and boring to the hideous but interesting

Mac pro Alienware PC Aspire

Water bottles

water bottle camel botle Nike bottle

Electric trimmers

They might be from different times, but this is just a comparison of the designs.

braun old philips trimmer braun new

Laptops

MBP Dell laptop Alienware

Sports cars

Not considering the performance or specs, only the minimalism of the design…though I have to admit; the Lambo is a beauty!

GTR Aventador Mclaren

Speakers

I’ve always been a fan of Bose’s designs. They maintain a good balance of minimalism and an interesting form.

sony speaker bose speaker jawbone

This small exercise helped me develop an understanding of the amount of design detailing considered minimal in each product category. For instance, the GTR is minimally designed for a sports car, but compared to a phone, it is in no way a minimal design.

What use is this exercise? Good question. Each category has its own customer base. As a designer, I have to understand the category my customer falls into and design accordingly. A user who loves the bold look of an Alienware would never buy a minimally designed laptop like MacBook Pros no matter how powerful it is, right?

This exercise is a good starting point for that process. Understanding the customer is the key to a product’s success. So, let us begin every process by completely understanding their needs and preferences.

Until next time, cheers!

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