Less is More: The New Simplicity Graphic Design

Reviewed by Julie Bohnlein

Heller and Fink’s Less is More describes the style trends of past graphic design, specifically the cycle of simple design. Simple design contains elements of the de Stijl and Bauhaus art movements —geometric shapes; using few, but bold, colors. It became a commercial trend in the 1930’s during World War II, when cutbacks were seen in all faucets of life. Graphic design during this time was stripped down to it’s fundamentals. This trend up kept up after the war; advertisers started using more whitespace, less literal photos, and more typography.

In the late eighties and early nineties, design quickly became very complex, with young designers wanting to change the rules of design, almost in an act of rebellion. This new complex style also lead to a lot of experimentation; like using the quirks of a computer program while laying out typography, or deconstructing a layout so normally invisible elements (grids, crop marks, holding lines) are seen on the page. Less wasn’t seen as more during this time, more was more. Ostentatious became the new austere.

Recently (late nineties), simplicity has made a return to graphic design. That’s just how the cycle works: when a trend, like the visually exhausting and complex design of the eighties becomes a trend, it gets overused; when something get’s overused, it gets rejected and people want to see something new or different. 

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