The death of maximalism

Sarabian asks whether From The Orient counts as a minimalist web site, as catalogued by the Minimalist Web Project. I would say not, but I wouldn’t say that three quarters of the sites listed at the Project are either. It seems to me that submitters of links to the MWP seem to equate “minimalism” with “clean CSS-style design”, with “CSS-style” in this context meaning “lots of nice borders on everything”. A pretty large propertion of sites styled with CSS do seem to share a “look”; borders on things, nice background colours, clean lines. However, this look is not minimalism, not by the MWP’s definition: “the idea of beauty through ‘less is more’”. It’s closer to a “classical” description of minimalism, that of a school that “emphasizes extreme simplification of form, as by the use of basic shapes and monochromatic palettes of primary colors, objectivity, and anonymity of style” (from AHD4). Anonymity of style covers it quite neatly, especially when we consider weblogs (since a fair few of them are modifications of the blogging system’s provided templates); Orient looks pretty much like kryogenix looks pretty much like Caveat Lector looks pretty much like Simon Willison’s weblog looks pretty much like Textism looks pretty much like Zeldman. Well, apart from Zeldman’s overuse of orange, but each to their own. Now, on the one hand, perhaps we’re moving away from styling issues and focusing more on content. This is great, and it’s what the decoupling of style and content represented by CSS is all about. On the other hand, are we losing some of the really beautiful design out there? Design, in the past, has been something of a dirty word to a lot of web developers, because it roughly equated to “pretty pictures that got in the way of my content”, or occasionally “pretty pictures that only worked in Internet Explorer for Windows”. Perhaps this era of relatively plain (but very pretty looking, and fairly minimalist) site designs is an interim period while we find our feet in this relatively new medium. ——-

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