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an investigation into the social movement

by rylan fraser - s3568808 - 2018

Contents P4

WHAT is minimalism


Understanding the minimalists - research


Research - Values


Research - Products


Research - Methods


Research - Ideas


Design experiments


Design experiment no.1 - the interview


Design experiment no.2 - the product


Design experiment no.3 - the app








Minimalism in its simplest form is defined by intentionally living with only the things that one needs (Joshua becker, 2017). This definition is widely adopted and strived for by the minimalist community. Although there are broader interpretations, some more extreme and some less, they all follow a set of fundamental values of living an intentional life. These values challenge the mainstream consumer culture that people unknowingly subscribe to.


“Modern culture has bought into the lie that the good life is found in accumulating things—in possessing as much as possible. They believe that more is better and have inadvertently subscribed to the idea that happiness can be purchased at a department store.� (Joshua becker, 2017, minimalism is freedom from the passion to possess section, para. 1)


Minimalism attempts to provide a counterculture to this widely accepted mode of living. Although there are fundamental values, through researching this subculture, common themes have appeared that inferred possible dichotomies that conflict with the values that most minimalists intend to live by. Even though minimalists were claiming to break away from mainstream consumerism they can still be seen owning of beautifully design and expensive things that some might see as more aesthetically pleasing that mainstream consumer goods. As author Dave Ramsey is quoted on a website called, the minimalist, “It’s okay to have some nice stuff, just don’t let your nice stuff have you.” (Dave Ramsey, n.d. minimal maxims section, para. 1). Even though this statement offers advice that seems to align with the minimalist’s values, supporting this claim seems to somewhat nullify minimalists’ value to live with less.7

Due to the minimalist community in Melbourne being relatively small and challenging to connect with, I decided to conduct a series of online design experiments that consisted of surveys and interviews to find out more about the dichotomies previously identified. These design experiments would offer insight into the minimalist ethos by challenging their fundamental value system.





I took a deep dive into their online presence and found resources that indicated their base value set

Slower -

Minimalists have a tendency to take a slower approach to thier daily tasks. This does not mean that they are less efficient at what they do. It means that rather than try and do everything at once, they will do a thing called ‘Mono tasking’ which involves focusing your attention on one thing at a time.

Thoughtful -

Carefully thinking about the choices they have and the decisions they make is a big part of minimalism. Do not follow the path best developed, inform and choose for yourself

Taking Care -

Taking care of the things that you do own. This sime action can help one find appreciation for their property

Purposful -

When buying things Minimalists are often quite methodical in which they weigh up if something will add meaning and or function to their life

Buying Less -

One of the main values that minimalist push is weighing up how important things are when purchasing them. Several of the main people educating people on minimalism has suggested that when we buy things to set a couple of rules. If we buy something, do not do it impulsively. Check in to see how much value it will add to your life and is it worth replacing other things that you own.

Experiences > Things -

Minimalist prefer experiences over objects. Creating long term memories that last rather than a short term rush of buying something new.

Buying Smart -

They educate themselves when buying things to see if they’re made with the same values that they have

Meaningful -

Creating meaningful experiences and working on relationships


GEOMETRIC COAT STANDS BY KRISTINA DAM’S SCULPTURAL MINIMALISM COLLECTION Looking into several items designed specifically with a minimalist aesthetic in mind, I found that, “Danish design firm Kristina Dam Studio has created minimalist coat stands and book shelves based on intersecting geometric shapes.” (Aouf, 2016). Looking into the price tag I found that it was around $850 Australian. This is a common trait that can be seen throughout the minimalist community. Buying high quality and beautiful objects of a high price point. Higher price is often justified by the saying things such as, “I invest In high quality things that I touch on a daily basis” (Hueguh, 2018, 00.04).


Figure 3. Sonos play 1. Reprinted from Sonos, by Sonos, 2018, Retrieved from

Figure 2. Light Phone II. Reprinted from Light Phone 2 Indiegogo campaign, by Light Phone 2, 2018, Reprinted from

Figure 1. Geometric coat standsby kristina dam’s sculptural minimalism collection. Reprinted from Dezeen, by Deseen, 2016 Retrieved from

Looking further into the material aesthetic of minimalism



This Phone could be augured that it was designed for the minimalist values and aesthetic. The advertising campaign is brilliantly effective telling consumers that this piece of technology will give you your life back and that “it’s a phone that actually respects you” (Jordi, 2018, 01.20).

This little Wi-Fi speaker, although has great sound capabilities is designed to reach the minimal aesthetic market. Boasting its unique way of arranging their eco system of devices seamlessly around your home creates a narrative of ‘I must have.’ Although you may not need any new speaker device,

Although the consumeristic nature of this product goes against the minimalist ethos, it justifies itself in the most genius ways to convince you to buy it with a convincing argument, “we humans, are taking back our lives” (Jordi, 2018, 01.45).

the Play One is an enticing purchase because it can replace multiple devices and rid your life of messy wires. The minimalist might trade their archaic devices for the ‘ONE’. This justification goes against some of the minimalist ethos because it exercises your, “Compulsive drive to consume” (Matt D’Avella, 2018, 00.28). The advertising suggests to you that you must obtain this item to complete the perfect minimal aesthetic and in turn, the minimalist lifestyle.


M E T H O D S CONSCIOUS CONSUMPTION As several of the key methods tie nicely into each other, a common theme that keeps recurring through minimalists talks and publication is that, “The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.” (Elise Boulding, 1920). Minimalists attempt to challenge the ‘consumption society’ by informing themselves about the products and services that they take purchase.

LESS IS MORE Part of the minimalist practice is eliminating the things that are not necessary in your life. Through this process of elimination, minimalists suggest that you’re able to reach a level of contentment that would not be achieved with the excess things that we as consumers acquire.

ENVIRONMENTAL / SOCIAL WELLBEING Seeing the rise of technology and social media, consumers are more aware about what they’re consuming than ever. With this, several demographics such as millennials, are becoming aware of the rate of their own consumption and how that reflects on the current social and economic climate. One article speculates that the reason millennials are taking up minimalism due to ‘corporate mistrust’ and ‘environmental concerns’ (Becoming minimalist, 2016).


METAL HEALTH Several articles and studies are suggesting and stating that living with less can benefit your mental health and by extension this can be linked to the minimalist ethos. One article cites a study conducted by the, Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology that concluded that children that where subjected to more chaotic living environments where more likely to have personal difficulties than ones that where not.

PRODUCTIVITY Minimalism and productivity go hand in hand. In a youtube video, Matt D’avella, a minimalist and film maker states that, ‘one of the first things people realise by clearing away their physical clutter is they remove friction from their lives. Less cleaning, less distractions, less things to bump into.” (Matt D’avella, 2018, 2:43). By eliminating the things around us that are unnecessary, we can focus on what is in front of us and that needs doing with less distraction.

ENVIRONMENTALISM Minimalists are innately conscious of their own environment. This is brought on by the being conscious if the larger environment. By constantly being well informed on their own habits and how this effects the larger environment, they can start a discourse around the subject of environmentalism and advocate for it.


DESIGN EXPERi Through these experiments we look into how the minimalist values can be tested and if they hold up to their own standards or sway from their origin.





he practice of minimalism is widespread, yet it still maintains a fundamental value set. For the first design experiment, I conducted an interview to understand why the participants had drawn to minimalism and how serious they adhered to the movement. The minimalists where asked why the they chose to become minimalists and if they follow the fundamental values that are conveyed through the movement on YouTube and social media. The answers indicated that their introduction to the movement was generally the same, they had heard about it through friends, family or YouTube. Upon researching further into the movement, they challenged themselves to look at their own consumerist ways and made changes to better align themselves with the movements values that struck a chord with them.


How did you find out about minimalism? “Through my partner and the minimalist movie” “I watched the minimalist movie on netfilx”

What is minimalism to you? “Minimalism is taking out unnecessary stress, living a more carefree life. the ability to feel more in control of your life. Its just a nice feeling knowing you don’t own things you don’t need. You aren’t wasting things and are more aware of why you are making a purchase.” “Its being able to feel a sense of organisation amongst your possessions which calms the mind and allows for focus on tasks that matter. Its also about being aware of your purchases and not buying things for the sake of it or impulsively. Also it is not a stick to beat each other with. minimalism is a very individual practice to each person who takes it up.”

Why did you decide to take up minimalism? “Because I realised I had way too many things that I didn’t need and I had too many things that didn’t benefit me or add value to my life.” “I noticed how much stuff I had weighing me down and wanted to make better decisions around my spending whilst being more conscious about where and how my things are made.”


How has minimalism effected your life? For the better, it has made me feel calmer and in control of my life. I am also saving money and thinking more about my purchases and ask my self do I need this and why do I need this It has been extremely beneficial, I have achieved a level of organisation and this has relieved stress and allowed for more creative expression in my work

Have you experienced anything negative when taking up minimalism? People that don’t understand minimalism can be judgemental towards living with less.” “The constant need to look through my possessions or through my phone to get rid of the things that I don’t need can feel like an addiction at times.”

How have the people around you reacted to you becoming a minimalist? “People who don’t know what it is are shocked at first but soon warm up to the idea and can understand why you are pursuing this path.” “Some have embraced it and some have been sceptical, for the most part things have been neutral because I don’t broadcast that I practice minimalism. When I am getting rid of things my family sometimes feels worried because they think i will eventually end up with nothing on the other hand, having this shift in the house has encouraged others to look at their own things and make decisions around if they actually need things or not.”


Empathy was a large part of why the participants chose to become minimalists.Theysawtheinformation about the state of the planet and how we contribute to the unaware mainstream and decided that they wanted to try and make a change.

This change wasn’t to be ground-breaking or trendy, it was more personal. The minimalists interviewed where not the kind of people to broadcast their views or what kind of values they had.


As the initial research indicated, although the minimalists had different levels of practice, they all came to the movement from a similar place. In addition, the few underlying dichotomies that where discussed with each person expressed that they weren’t perfect in their practice of minimalism. There are others out there that are far better at following a stricter path but nevertheless, by attempting to incorporate the fundamental values into 21 their lives was an undoubtably positive and beneficial thing.




hrough my research, a common theme was the link between minimalists and well designed and expensive products. This seemed to be a conflicting idea due to its relationship between their counterculture challenging the mainstream consumer values and their pursuit to living an intentional life with less.

designed an online survey that required participants to watch a crowdfunding video about a product that’s intent was to align with the minimalist’s values. The product featured is called the Light phone II (Light phone 2, 2018, Figure 1). In this video we see a very compelling case to give up your current smart phone for their product. Their argument is that by minimising the number of tools your current smartphone must simply the things that you need will enable you to live a more fulfilling life. This is extended to living consciously through our consumption by stating, “when we consume so fast, there is no way for us to appreciate anything, and appreciation gives our lives meaning” (Ligh Phone II, n.d.).



Figure 1. Light Phone II. Reprinted from Light Phone 2 Indiegogo campaign, by Light Phone 2, 2018, Reprinted from

Figure 2. Light Phone II. Reprinted from Light Phone 2 Indiegogo campaign, by Light Phone 2, 2018, Reprinted from


Figure 3. Light Phone II. Reprinted from Light Phone 2 Indiegogo campaign, by Light Phone 2, 2018, Reprinted from

LIGHT PHONE 2 SURVEY What about this product appeals to you? - Love the idea of minimal features & how this product has limited the phone uses to only what is necessary/only functions you need on a phone - It encourages a healthy and balanced lifestyle. It is anti-consumerist and empowers our independence from society, which is very different from many phone/communication products that are currently being published. - how simple it us to use and look at - It’s simplicity and design aesthetics

What value will this product bring to your life? - More time to focus on what is important in life, not staring at a screen and wasting time to be spent on something more valuable - It would allow for less distractions and develop a more focused thought process - I expect to have more tome being productive - The value of disconnecting with the consumer-centric social media and general browsing.

How & what is effective in this campaign? - Speaking about how it will change your life in the right way, rather than only focusing on the product. It makes you rethink how you are currently living, and question if your smartphone is really worth it - I liked the narrative aspect and calm aesthetics of the video. However, considering the simplicity of product, I would almost recommend a shorter and more simple promotional style. - The narrative of living light - the story - The portrayal of the product is effective, and it’s ability to advertise a product that will bring you less perceived value than a normal phone.


Do you think $300 is a fair price considering that current mobiles are priced at 1k-2k? Majority of the participants felt that this was a reasonable price even with the limited functions

would you purchase this product? again, majority of the participants said they would purchase the product and only one of them was still unsure

Why would you purchase this product? The concensus was that the minimalists would purchase the product because the creators values aligned with their own


Once viewed that participants answered several questions designed to investigate if minimalists would remain true to their values or deviate because a product looked as though it had been crafted to complement their aesthetic.

Figure 4. Light Phone 2. Reprinted from The Light Phone, by The Light Phone, 2018, Reprinted from


The answers where somewhat varied but all intertwined with fundamental minimalist values. A theme that occurred several times was the mention of the well-designed aesthetic. Although this seemed to have materialist values weighted behind it, it was justified through the guise that its simplicity would allow for less distraction and therefor more time spent living a meaningful and intentional life. This suggested that the minimalists who took the survey might intend to purchase the product, but it would be to give up their current smart phone, therefore 29 still adhering to majority the values of the minimalist’s movement.


NO.3 For the final design experiment I decided to choose a method that the minimalists community seemed to value greatly called monotasking. This method requires the participant to focus on one task at a time. People who engage in the method of monotasking find they are more efficient and have more time of focus on the things important to them (Amy Vetter, 2018). As the method of monotasking links closely to the minimalist’s fundamental value of living intentionally, I created a survey that would further test how flexible their personal values are.


I designed an app named MONO that would allow for the user to intentionally limit their phones connectivity making the act of monotasking easier by eliminating the distraction of notifications. The survey asked minimalists if, how and why they would use the app and if their where more features or things that would add to their experience whilst using the app.


MONO A simple app for mono-tasking





When asked questions about weather they would add features there was talk about including more customisation to the features that the app limited, one of the participants said that they would just want to be able to choose which apps to silence and which ones to still let through. This was an interesting contradiction due to a minimalist intentionally wanting to add potential distractions, therefore mitigating the sole purpose of monotasking.

Among the answers received, the consensus was overwhelmingly positive towards having an app for a specific purpose of monotasking. Although it was mentioned, by downloading an additional app was bringing another item into your life it seemed to outweigh the quest for less since it had potential to add to their goal of intentional living.



Through communicating with the minimalist community, the research gathered would indicate that although the social movement seems to have fundamental values, these values can be tailored to the individual interpreting them. According to the people I talked to, compromise is not necessarily negative. The fundamental point of minimalism in its newest form of social movement is to follow the underlying value set that challenges mainstream consumerism. By following the minimalist values, they will enable the individual to live harmoniously along the lines of the counterculture whilst still being able to coexists with its consumerist counterparts.


Consumption is a large part of being a minimalist, you must be a consumer to be a minimalist. Although we claim to be minimalists, we can be just as consumeristic as the majority. The difference is intent and conscious actions.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Joshua becker. (2017). What is minimalism?. Retrieved from Joshua becker. (2017). What is minimalism?: minimalism is freedom from the passion to possess section. Retrieved from Dave Ramsey. (n.d.) Minimal maxims. Retrieved from Aouf, R. S. (2016). Geometric coat stands and book shelves feature in kristina dam’s sculptural minimalism collection. Retrieved from Hueguh, (2018, February 27). Edc | minimalist carry [Video file]. Retrieved from Jordi, (2018, March 1). light phone 2 - a phone that actually respects you. (indiegogo video) [Video file]. Retrieved from Matt D’Avella, (2018, May 7). The reason most people are unhappy [Video file]. Retrieved from. Phsycology today. (2012). your closets, your clutter, and your cognitions. Retrieved from Matt D’avella. (2018, 17 April). how minimalism can make you more productive. [Video file]. Retrieved from Becoming Minimalist. (2016). 50 minimalism quotes… through the centuries. Retrieved from Light Phone 2. (2018). Light Phone 2. Retrieved from Light Phone 2. (n.d.) Light Phone 2. Retrieved from Amy Vetter. (2018). Science Says Monotasking Not Multitasking Is the Secret to Getting Things Done. Retrieved from


IMAGES Dezeen. (2016). Geometric coat standsby kristina dam’s sculptural minimalism collection [Website image]. Retrieved from Light Phone 2. (2018). Light Phone 2 Black phone [Website image]. Retrieved from Sonos. (2018). Sonos play 1 [Website image]. Retrieved from Light Phone 2. (2018). Light Phone 2 Black phone [Website image]. Retrieved from Light Phone 2. (2018). Light Phone 2: white product layed out [Website image]. Retrieved from Light Phone 2. (2018). Light Phone 2: phone in hand [Website image]. Retrieved from The Light Phone. (2018). The light phone in wallet. [ebsite image]. Retreived from