How to make a minimalist product?

 Samsung Multi function printer

One of the most distinctive current design trends is minimalism. Examples are ranging from electronics such as Apple’s iPod, LG’s chocolate phone, and B&O’s BeoSound system to interior accessories such as Muji’s fan and the humidifier at Plus Minus Zero (by Naoto Fukasawa). Since some of those minimally designed products made a huge commercial success, we need to understand how consumers respond to minimalist products, the products with the minimum number of design features such as colors, shapes and buttons. 

Bang & Olufson speaker

Simplicity has been discussed in various areas. For instance, John Maeda (2007), a computer scientist and graphic designer argues in his book, The Laws of Simplicity that simplicity needs to be accomplished in graphic design as well as in organizations, business, and technology. Wallace (2006) also attributes the success of Apple and Google to their simplicity, urging marketers to deliver selective distinctive benefits in today’s visually overloaded environment. However, it is also true that many European designers complain that, mostly US, consumers are not ready to embrace the value of simplicity. Don Norman in his blog argues that simplicity is highly overrated. Then, when functionality is not sacrificed, does minimalism truly increase consumer preference?

Shin and Joo (2019), “Less for more, but how & why? – Number of elements as key determinant of visual complexity,” International Association of Societies of Design Research 2019, Manchester:UK. 

Although designers aim at “less for more” when developing a product, they struggle with how to achieve simplicity and why making a product simple improves the commercial value of the product. To answer the two questions, we performed one experimental study. In the study, we searched for which of the six different types of lowering visual complexity is effective and examined whether authenticity mediates the effect of visual complexity on commercial value. Results show that three out of six types of lowering visual complexity (e.g., irregularity of arrangement, amount of material, incongruity) deemed to be more commercial value. Results also show that decreasing the amount of material is the only way to enhance authenticity, which in turn increases the commercial value of the product.

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