Less is More: Minimalist Design Principles for Visual Content

November 9, 2015

Simple or Complicated written on a blackboardMost marketers and business professionals know they need high-quality visual content to communicate their message effectively and connect to their target audience. However, employing a team of full-time graphic designers can be pricey. The good news is it’s possible to create your own visual content with very little or no design training.

The key is to embrace the beauty and power of minimalism. As Nicholas Burroughs explains, “Minimalism is not a lack of something. It’s simply the perfect amount of something.”

Here are 4 tips to ensure your visual content has the perfect amount of everything.

  1. Use restraint.

Protect your visual content from becoming a cluttered mess by limiting the amount of content that you try to communicate with the visual. If you’re creating a presentation, I suggest stealing some inspiration from Twitter and limiting your content to 140-characters or less for each slide.

In addition, use restraint when it comes to typefaces and colors.  Restrict your color palette to one or two main colors with one or two accent colors. In addition, don’t use more than three typefaces; two is ideal.

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  1. Choose design elements that are simple and minimal.

To create minimalistic visuals, set yourself up for success by selecting simple design elements, such as flat colors and icons, and high-resolution photos with a lot of white space. White space attracts the eye, and has a calming effect on viewers.

To get the most impact out of the white space, design your layout according to the rule of thirds guidelines. The guidelines propose that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. Proponents of the technique claim that aligning a subject with these points creates more tension, energy and interest in the composition than simply centering the subject.

In the image below, the bench and the top of the door align with the rule of thirds guidelines, and draw the eye towards the center of the design where the content is featured.

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  1. Choose a single standout element

When selecting minimalistic design elements, such as photographs, look for images that have one standout element. The standout element should give the viewers a meaningful focal point.

The image below demonstrates this technique and also shows a non-traditional approach to white space. The sky and water are blue, not white; however they have the same effect as white space since those areas feel empty and open, not busy.

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  1. Give things plenty of space.

When you create minimalistic visuals, you let the most important elements shine by removing the excess that often creeps into a design. To effectively highlight the most important elements of your design, give focal points plenty of space.

As you can see in the image below, when you give important elements, such as the tree and the text, room to breathe, you emphasize those elements in a powerful and pleasant way.

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Simplify your life by simplifying your approach to design for visual content. To inspire you to embrace the beauty of simplicity, enjoy the quotes below, designed by the Ethos3 presentation designers.

About the Author

Leslie Belknap is the Senior Content Strategist for Ethos3, as well as a board member and speakers’ coach for TEDxNashville. Say hi to Leslie onTwitter; she manages tweets for Ethos3.