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Sophie  Devine          


‘Less  is  more’  and  ‘form  follows  function’  have  become  very  popular  phrases  in  the  design  world  for  those   fashion  conscious  individuals  searching  for  the  minimalist  aesthetic.  Yet  does  not  everybody  need  some  colour   and  excitement  in  their  lives  rather  than  a  life  surrounded  by  bedazzling  white  walls  and  smooth  clean  lines?   Perhaps  this  need  is  ripening  in  today’s  consumer  society  already;  In  opposition  to  the  recently  popular   austerity  of  minimalistic  living,  we  seem  to  be  establishing  an  appreciation  for  clutter  and  the  excess.  Could  it   even  be  possible  that  both  ways  of  solving  problematic  design  are  working  well  alongside  each  other?  Is  it  that   they  are  so  contrary  to  each  other  that  they  are  ultimately  just  ‘two  sides  of  the  same  coin’  and  neither  one   could  exist  without  the  other  to  fall  back  on.    Is  there  even  a  visible  cycle  between  the  two?  Do  we  as  a  society   eventually  get  bored  of  one  way  of  doing  things  and  then  revert  to  doing  the  complete  opposite?  Ultimately  it   could  easily  be  stated  that  there  is  no  answer  to  the  question  of  which  is  more  successful  as,  particularly  in   design,  the  ultimate  decision  is  down  to  personal  taste.     What  better  way  is  there  to  show  ‘maximalism’  of  the  past  than  with  the  floral,  patterned  and  decorative  work   of  the  Arts  and  Crafts  movement.  As  a  reaction   against  the  industrial  revolution  of  the  Victorian   age,  the  promotion  of  handcraftsmanship  allowed   individuals  like  William  Morris  freedom  with   decoration  and  to  create  excessive  pieces.  In  later   years,  the  Art  Nouveau  movement,  which   developed  in  the  1880s,  provides  a  great  example   of  the  popularity  of  decoration  and  embellishment   before  the  growth  of  minimalism  in  the  20th   Century.     Figure  1  William  Morris,  Acanthus  leaf     wallpaper   Alphonse  Mucha  delivered  some  of  the  best   examples  of  the  Art  Nouveau-­‐style  Graphic  Design  during  the  late  19th  Century.  His  posters   Figure  2,   became  iconic  images,  depicting  decorative  type  and  organic  forms  surrounding  beautiful   Alphones  Mucha   women.     La  Dame  aux   According  to  The  Tate  Gallery:  An  Illustrated  Companion  (1979),  ‘The  theory  of   Camelias  1896   minimalism  is  that  without  the  diverting  presence  of  “composition”,  and  by  the  use  of  plain,   often  industrial  materials  arranged  in  geometrical  or  highly  simplified  configurations  we   may  experience  all  the  more  strongly  the  pure  qualities  of  colour,  form,  space  and  materials'.1Although  minimal   art  did  not  appear  to  be  popular  as  a  movement  until  the  1950s  there  are  examples  of  minimalist  theories  being   exercised  since  the  18th  century,  in  the  work  of  Goethe  and  his  construction  ‘an  Altar  of  Good  fortune’  consisting   simply  of  a  stone  sphere  and  cube  in  his  garden  in  Weimar.       With  his  writings  of  1908  in  the  essay  ‘Ornament  and  crime’  Austrian  architect  Adolf  Loos  took  the  first  stand   against  the  previously  popular  and  highly  decorative  Art  Nouveau  movement  by   stating  that“Ornament  is  wasted  manpower  and  therefore  wasted  health.”2.  Loos   argued  that  craftsmen  could  not  be  paid  fairly  for  their  labourdue  to  ornament  no   longer  being  an  imperative  manifestation  of  civilization.  Loo’s  essay  swiftly   developed  into  a  crucial  paper  and  manifesto  in  the  modernist  world  and  was   distributed  worldwide.  The  resulting  work  took  the  form  of  the  crisp  geometric   forms  of  the  Art  Deco  movement  in  the  1920s  and  minimalist  and  maximalists  have   been  debating  over  style  ever  since.  In  graphic  design,  Art  Deco  comprehended   motifs  ‘ranging  from  reductive  geometry,  elongated  figures  and  mannered   angularity  to  the  repetition  and  regularity  associated  with  the  machine’3     A.MCassandreis  a  great  example  of  graphic  designers  in  the  Art  Deco  Era,  and  his   strong   belief  in  the  intergration  of  word  and  image  had  great  influence  in  the  area.   Figure  3,  A.M  Cassandre,   Poster  France  1925        

                                                                                                                1   2   3  Design  writing  research,  Ellen  Lupton  and  Abbot  Miller,  pg  88


When  considering  the  work  of  fine  artists  beauty  can  easily  be  found  in  both  minimal  and  maximal  creations.   Once  again  when  it  comes  to  the  question  of  which  you  would  rather  have  in  your   home  surely  the  answer  depends  on  that  person  and  their  lifestyle.  Minimalism   became  very  popular  in  America  in  the  1960s.  One  cannot  state  that  when  faced   with  an  enormous  canvas  that  rejects  figures,  landscapes  and  movement  and  simply   boasts  a  block  of  the  intense  Yves  Kelin  Blue,  there  is  no  appreciation  of  its  beauty.       Artists  like  Ad  Reinhardt  andRobert  Rauschenbergmanaged  to  achieve  fullness   through  emptiness  in  their  work  by  simply  using  powerful  block  colour  and   rejecting  obvious  forms.  Mark  Rothko  sought  the  elimination  of  clutter  stating  that   “The  progression  of  a  painter’s  work,  as  it  travels  in  time  from  point  to  point,  will  be   Figure  4  Ad  Reinhardt,   toward  clarity:  toward  the  elimination  of  all  obstacles   Abstract  painting  No  5,   1962 between  the  painter  and  the  idea,  and  between  the  idea   and  the  observer.”4 Although  some  may  feel  great  apprication  for  works  of  the  likes  of  Hiroshi   Sugimoto,  one  cannot  deny  that  when  admiring  such  a  minmalist  piece,  one  can   easily  be  distracted  bt  the  tiniest  imperfection.  Whereas  with  Maximalist  pieces  the   eye  does  not  fall  onto  the  odd  speck  of  unwanted  dust,  disruption  in  paint  or  glitch   in  a  photograph,  it  is  compelled  to  take  in  the  whole  of  the  work  and  admires  all   details  while  ignoring  any  imperfections.     By  1912,  artists  began  to  move  away  from  the  slow  and  static  images  of  cubism  and  had  founded  a  way  of   displaying  movement  and  change.  Futurism  is  an  excellent  example  of  maximalist   art  through  its  breakdown  of  form  by  substituting  swirling  lines  for  horizontals   and  verticals.  Viewers  are  drawn  to  paintings  such  as  Umberto  Boccioni’s  ‘The   Street  Enters  the  House’  for  their  stimulating  capture  of  movement  and  colour.     When  admiring  such  a  painting  the  dynamic  composition  of  swirling  figures  brings   the  piece  alive,  it  almost  seems  possible  that  the  noises  and  movements  of  the   street  could  jump  out  from  the  piece.       In  2003  British  painter  Chris  Ofili  publicized  the  return   Figure  5  Hiroshi  Sugimoto,   North  Pacific  Ocean,  1994  

or  ‘maximalism’  with  a  series  of  kaleidoscopic  colours   and  intricately  ornamented  paintings.  His  boisterous   works  are  renowned  for  their  layering  of  stimulating   media  including  glitter,  resin,  map  pins,  collage  and   elephant  dung.  In  2003  Bibi  Van  de  Zee  of  the  Guardian  claimed  that  “Beneath  the   one  or  two  pieces  of  elephant  dung  are  paintings  with  layer  upon  layer  of   pattern  and  imagery:  Looking  at  one  of  his  pictures  can  have  a  hypnotic   effect.”5Ofili’s  work  encompasses  rhythmic  patterning  and  cultural  elements,   playing  on  the  theme  of  beauty  while  also  making  statements  about  black   culture,  history  and  exoticism.   Figure  6  Umberto  Boccioni,   The  Street  Enters  the   House,  1911

Figure  7  Chris  Ofili,   Afrodizzia,  1996  

  The  garishly  bold  colours  of  EttoreScottsass’  post-­‐modernist  Memphis  group   dominated  the  interiors  of  the  1980s.  Perfectly  in  tune  with  the  80s  post  punk  era  of   new  romanticism,  Memphis’  colourful  vibe,  along  with  the  multinational,  young  and   hip  designers  of  mixed  sex,  proved  overpowering  to  the  mass  media,  despite  it’s   hatred  by  many  old  designers.Despite  the  fact  that  the  pieces  created  were  not   loaded  with  decoration  they  can  still  be  considered  as  maximal  as  a  reaction  against   the  plain,  dark  and  humourless  minimalist  design  of  the  1970s.  Their  use  of  striking   colours  allowed  the  group  to  inject  some  character  and  eccentricity  into  society   while  retaining  the  functional  feel  to  their  designs.   Figure  8  Carlton  cabinet   1981,  Ettoresottsass     Modern  minimalistic  architecture  grew  out  of  the  belief  that  the  aesthetic  of   excessive  decoration  was  caused  by  the  pursuit  of  beauty  and  pleasure  and  therefore  often  regarded  as  



pretentious.  The  debate  over  form  and  function  became  saturated  with  moral  connotations.  Le  Corbusier  even   believed  that  decoration  would  cease  to  exist  in  the  future  referring  to  the  decorative  arts  as  “the  final  spasm  of   a  predictable  death.”6.The  styles  of  contemporary  architects  of  the  likes  of  John  Pawson  became  very  popular   among  the  young  and  wealthy  towards  the  end  of  the  20thCentury.  Pawson  created  a  minimalistic  way  of  living   by  focusing  on  solving  the  fundamental  problems  of  space,  light,  proportion  and  materials  rather  than  creating   individual  stylistic  characteristics.  The  title  of  his  book  ‘Minimum’,  published  in  1996  speaks  for  itself  when   considering  his  method  of  working.Pawson  uses  simplified  form  and  a  restricted  colour  palette  to  create  spaces   that  offer  a  sense  of  refuge,  and  uses  inspiration  from  the  likes  of  Donald  Judd  and  his  statement  “Simple   expression  of  complex  thought.”7  .  Yet  it  could  be  argued  that  the  attempts  of  minimalist  architects  at  creating   such  a  place  of  sanctuary  could  cause  people  to  feel  uncomfortable  in  the  garishly  white  space,  I  myself  would   feel  uneasy  and  apprehensive  of  spoiling  such  a  clean  area  with  any  untidiness.  Minimalistic  interiors  are   evidently  for  everyone.     A  great  example  of  maximalist  interior  design  today  is  showcased  by  Australian  designer  Sibella  Courtwho   describes  her  style  as  “A  bohemian  mix ��of  beautiful  things  that  are  both  old  and  new,  well-­‐travelled,  pre-­‐loved   and  quirky.”8.  One  cannot  argue  that,  when  done  so  successfully,  maximalist   interiors  never  seem  to  bore,  they  demand  attention  and  make  a  statement  about   the  room  and  the  person  that  lives  there  rather  than  creating  any  fear  of  disarray.   Surely  there  is  a  reason  that  if  you  pick  up  a  homeware  magazine  today,  it  will  be   filled  to  the  brim  with  floral  patterned  wallpapers  and  embellished  furniture,   awash  with  various  trimmings.  There  is  something  about  this  style  that  appeals   much  more  to  the  public  than  a  tin  of  white  emulsion.     Unlike  William  Morris’  Arts  and  crafts  movement,  with  his  establishment  of  the   Bauhaus  school  in  Weimar  in  1919,  Walter  Gropius  realised  that  machine   production  was  inevitable  and  embraced  it’s  existence  by  developing  a  new  style   which  reflected  the  principles  and  processes  of  the  industrial  aesthetic.  The  school   Figure  9,  The  society  inc.   interior,  Sibella  Court  

saw  that  the  reduction  of  items  to  their  vital  elements  was  an  easy  and  successful   way  of  making  objects  suitable  for  mass  production  for  the  consumer.  The   Bauhaus  therefore  created  the  uncluttered  living  environment  of  a  technological   era  by  developing  clean,  simple,  abstract,  angular  and  geometric  forms  even  inspired  by  modern  machinery.   The  principle  of  using  structures  in  the  shapes  of  wheels  and  other  mechanical  parts  created  an  industrial   depiction  to  architecture  and  interior  design  that  contrasted  to  the  curves  and   ornamentations  of  the  Arts  and  Crafts  and  Art  Nouveau  movements.  Gropius   illustrated  that  the  aesthetic  of  Bauhaus  architecture  was  to  “Build  means  to  shape   the  activities  of  life.  The  organism  of  a  house  derives  from  the  course  of  the   activities,  which  take  place  within  it…  The  shape  of  a  building  is  not  there  for  it’s   own  sake…”9  It  is  from  the  Bauhaus  that  the  term  ‘Form  follows  function’  was  born   as  well  as  the  unification  between  designer  and  machine.Hermann  Muthesius   successfully  describes  what  the  Bauhaus  thoughts  and  ideas  were  “What  we  expect   from  machine  products,  is  smooth  form  reduced  to  its  essential  function.”10     The  Bauhaus  teachings  had  a  vast  influence  over  the  typography  of  the  20th  Century.   László  Moholy-­‐Nagy,  a  Hungarian  Letterer  and   sign  painter,  was  appointed  to  take  over   Johannes  Itten’s  preliminary  course  in  1923.   Moholyhad  great  influence  over  students  such  as  

the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog

Figure  10  Poster  for  a   Bauhaus  exhibition  in   Weimar,  Joost  Schmidt,   1923  

Figure  11  The  Bauhaus  font  

Herbert  Bayer  and  Joost  Schmidt.  With  the  use  of  simple  typeface,  heavy   rules  and  ban  of  serifs  and  the  uppercase,  Bayer  had  great  influence  over   minimalistic  typography  and  the  Bauhaus  font  is  still  used  today.  His  successor,  Joost  Schmidt  was  also  gifted  as  


6Maximalism,  Charlotte  Rivers,  pg  12


7  Information  from  notes  taken  when  visiting  the  John  Pawson  exhibition  at  The  Design  Museum  in  London,  November  

2010   8­‐sibella-­‐court/   9  Bauhaus,  Frank  Whitford,  pg  159   10  Bauhaus,  Frank  Whitford,  pg  20  

a  typographer  and  his  many  posters  for  Bauhaus  exhibitions  scream  out  the  minimalistic  traits  of  geometric   forms  and  simplistic  type.   The  grids  and  minimalism  of  Swiss  typography  became  popular  with  graphic  designers  in  the  1930s.  Designed   by  Eric  Gill  in  1928  the  Gill  Sans  font  is  a  great  example  of  this,  consisting  of  clean  lines  and  uniform  width.  Gill   Sans  soon  became  popular  among  graphic  designers  for  its  simple  form  and   the quick brown fox jumps ultimately  legible  style.     over the lazy dog Yet  today  the  previously  successful  ‘Gothic’  typefaces  of  Germany  seem  to  be     becoming  more  popular  with  graphic  designers.After  years  of  Mac-­‐ Figure  12  Gill  Sans  font   generated  minimalism  teamed  with   blunt  Swiss  typography  and  rigorous   layouts  Graphic  designers  are  beginning  to  desert  the  Helvetica,  in   favourof  more  gothic  and  ornate  fonts.  Typefaces  of  the  likes  of  ‘Quilts’,   created  for  the  Victoria  and  Albert  museum’s  exhibition  ‘Quilts:1700-­‐ 2010’,  are  splendid  examples  of  designers  moving  away  from  simple  tidy   typefaces.  The  designers  of  Quilts,  Studio  Frith,  created  the  font  by   Figure  13  Quilts  font   “Developing  a  version  of  an  old  typeface  found  at  St  Brides  Library  making   a  special  feature  of  the  dipping  cross-­‐bars”11  which  mirrors  a  quilting  method  called  ‘Stitch  in  the  Ditch’.   Although  simplistic  type  has  many  benefits  with  simple  and  elegant  layouts  it  can  easily  bore.  That’s  not  to  say   that  some  ‘maximalistic’  type  can  become  unsuccessful  with  over  powering  details  and  trimmings  and   therefore  illegible.  Overall  it  seems  that  depending  on  the  client  and  brief,  the   majority  of  the  time  the  most  successful  typography  uses  a  legible  font  with  some   decorative  twists  rather  than  going  overboard  with  embellishments.     GerdArntz  is  an  excellent  example  of  a  successful  minimalistic  Graphic  designer,   producing  over  4000  different  pictograms  and  abstract  illustrations  for  the  ISOTYPE   system  in  the  1920s  and  30s.  Arntz’s  clear-­‐cut  style  developed  into  simple  designs   that  worked  effectively  in  getting  points  across.  Creating  woodcuts  and  linocuts   provided  sharp  commentaries  on  the  social  classifications  prevalent  in  Weimar   Germany  after  the  First  World  War.     Figure  14  Symbols  for   The  strikingly  elegant  work  of  Minimalist  graphic  design  works  well  in  many   employed  and  unemployed,   Gerd  Arntz,  1930s situations,  yet  it  can  be  a  struggle  to  get  excited  about  something  that  fails  to   entice  you  straight  away.   During  the  1990s  Graphic  designer  David  Carson,  stood  apart  from  the   majority  of  designers  with  creative  texture  and  diversity  in  his  work  by  mixing   traditional  typefaces  with  gaudy  offbeat  ones.  Carson’s  unique  expressionistic   typography  and  interest  in  non-­‐mainstream  photography  had  a  huge  impact   on  the  young  90s  culture.  Carson  also  successfully  integrates  text  and  image  in   a  way,  which  although  may  sometimes  not  be  instantly  legible,  carries  emotion   and  boldness.     Figure  15  Cover  for  Yale  University     art  gallery,  David  Carson,  2010   In  terms  of  Graphic  Design  today,  it  appears  that  the  cult  for  embellishment   has  emerged  as  a  reaction  to  the  pared  down  design,  which  was  so  popular  in   the  90s.  After  the  tendency  to  use  the  Apple  Macintosh  to  create  gridded  and  structured  design,  the  growth  of   decoration  by  Designers  and  Illustrators  has  begun  to  result  in  emotive  and  alluring  work.  The  development  of   maximalist  tendencies  can  be  highly  credited  to  the  development  of  technologies   such  as  photoshop,  Quark  and  Illustrator.It  is  now  straightforward  and  easy  to   create  complicated  pieces  on  such  software  very  quickly.  Without  this  software,   creating  such  stylised  and  complex  pieces  would  have  been  uneconomical.The   increased  use  of  repeated  pattern,  embellishment  and  adornment  seen  today   reflects  a  trend  towards  a  vivid  and  exciting  ‘Maximalism’.  A  great  example  of   the  use  of  Photoshop  in  creating  decorative  pieces  is  the  album  cover  created  for   Japanese  artists  Asa-­‐Chang  &Junray  by  the  London  based  design  agencyNon-­‐ Format  in  2002.  Non-­‐Format  designer  Jon  Forss  explains  how  the  LPs  were   created  “We  began  by  scanning  illustrations  of  Japanese  floral  patterns,  broke  


Figure  16  Asa-­‐Chang  &  Junray   album  cover,  Non-­‐format,  2002  


11  The  creative  Review  Type  Annual  February  2011,  pg  22  

them  apart  on  Photoshop  then  reconstructed  them  into  a  pattern  that  stretched  across  the  front  and  back  of  an   LP  sleeve.”12  To  be  able  to  pull  things  apart  and  edit  designs  with  the  luxury  of  never  losing  the  original  is  a  key   part  of  the  Graphic  Design  of  the  modern  world,  and  such  illustrative  and  decorative  works  would  not  be   around  today  without  that  ability.     Having  learned  from  the  encounter  with  modernism,  the  current  approach  of  graphic  designers  embraces   function  with  a  diverse  range  of  methods  and  materials.  The  adorned  pieces  encompass  symbol  repetition  and   floral  references  in  order  to  ‘tell  a  story’  rather  than  just  look  pretty.       There  also  seems  to  have  been  an  evolution  of  the  1960s  style  of  decorative  illustration  with  a  new  twist  from   the  digitally  formed  line  drawings  of  the  90s.  Designers  and  illustrators  have  begun   to  embrace  the  hand  drawn  along  with  digital  processes,  using  them  together  in   order  to  create  highly  attractive  pieces.  An  example  of  the  use  of  mixing  the  hand   made  and  computer  editing  to  create  a  maximal  effect  is  Spanish  Graphic  Artist   Alex  Trochut.  Trochut  works  to  the  rule  that  “More  is  more”13  His  illustrations,   designs  and  typography  take  the  notion  of  minimalism  and  flip  it  on  it’s  head.  He   successfully  combines  hand  drawn  images  and  CAD  to  come  up  with  exciting   results  boasting  an  elegantly  detailed  combination  of  type  and  imagery.    Also,  in   2003,  Shinsuke  Koshio  from  Tokyo  based  Design  Company  Sunday  Vision  created  a   folded  catalogue  for  the  Orine  collection,  using  decorative  hand  drawn  illustrations   over  photography  resulting  in  a  really  attractive  feminine  look.  As  well  as  this,  the   catalogue  folds  out  from  a  hexagonal  shape  in  an  origami-­‐esque  style,  which  easily   entices  the  consumer.     Figure  17  Cover  of  The   Graphic  Design  has  even  become  more  sensually  appealing,  not  just  to  our  sight.   Guardian  G2,  Alex  Trochut,   Designers  are  beginning  to  develop  not  just  layout  and  style  but  materials  so  that   2008 we  can  now  touch  and  even  taste  and  smell  pieces  in  front  of  us.  The  classic   example  is  of  the  scratch  and  sniff,  yet  a  recent  example  is  the  Design  Criminals   Edible  Catalogue,  by  Andreas  Pohancenik,  currently  on  display  at  the  Design  Awards  in  the  London  Design   Museum.       Only  time  will  tell  if  the  return  to  ‘Maximalism’  will  overcome  the  desire  to  regularly  change  our  ways  and  style,   although  it  is  doubtful.  There  is  no  doubt  that  since  design  has  been  an  important  part  of  the  economy  and  our   daily  lives  ‘maximalism’  has  coexisted  with  minimalism.  One  seems  to  have  stood  out  more  successfully  than   the  other  many  times  in  the  past  yet  it  is  their  reliance  on  the  existence  of  each  other  that  makes  the  individual   so  great.  Some  designs  should  be  bold  and  simplistic,  while  others  have  a  need  of  excess  and  embellishment;  it   is  ultimately  dependent  on  the  needs  of  the  product  and  the  client  as  to  which  direction  a  design  would  work.   The  argument  of  minimalism  and  ‘maximalism’  is  part  of  an  ongoing  cycle,  a  definitive  competition  between  the   beautiful  and  the  functional.  However  is  it  not  truly  beautiful  when  items  possess  beauty  and  purpose?  If  only   we  could  accept  that  the  two  both  have  important  qualities  in  order  to  further  all  areas  of  design  and  have  an   equal  appreciation  for  them  both.  Inevitably,  we  are  flawed  beings  that  insist  on  arguing  right  and  wrong  and   travel  through  phases  throughout  our  lives  and  as  our  desires,  tastes  and  lifestyles  change,  therefore  so  to  will   design.    



                                                                                                                12Maximalism,  Charlotte  Rivers,  pg  67   13Illustration  now!  3,  E.dJuliousWiedenmann,  pg  392