Minimalism for Better Messaging

The rise of minimalism in design has an entire generation to thank. It’s no secret that the world is increasingly influenced by the Millenials, whose population is reported to now surpass their Baby Boomer grandparents. Millennials have more formal education than any generation in U.S. history and tend to be vocal and hold strong opinions. It’s no wonder their influence is so potent.

One trend Millennials have championed is minimalism, and – in my opinion – it’s a good one. Just look around. The world is a sensory-overloaded place with visual noise in every direction. Minimalism eases some of that overstimulation. And the trend isn’t limited to specific sectors. Think about any of the websites you frequent. The best sites have streamlined content, added more white space, and updated the way they use typography.

Minimalism isn’t as easy to get right as it may seem. It’s not just adding white space and removing pictures. Getting minimalism right requires intentional, well-planned white space, and targeted imagery as well as streamlined content and carefully executed typography.

If you want to freshen up your organization’s visuals – and appeal to this important, growing population – but don’t have the bandwidth or budget for a complete graphic re-invention, here are some options for going minimal…minimally:

Graphics

Graphics refer to almost anything that adds visual appeal to your page, including photos, videos, illustrations, icons, infographics, and even callouts or sidebars. In a minimal layout, using fewer of these at once is preferred.

While scrolling down a web page, for example, a minimal layout may have one or two good-sized images but not within visual proximity of each other – the first may be off-screen by the time you see the second. There might be a dusting of icons, but they’ll be simple and surrounded by significant negative space. Or maybe there’s one large image supported by succinct text and few/no icons.

Regardless of the type of images, they should be carefully selected to reinforce your messaging framework. A photo of 20-somethings laughing together in a park might have the energy you want, but does it tell your unique story? Or one of a 60-year-old man making an online donation might be spot-on for your fundraiser call to action (CTA), but does it speak to what makes your organization’s work so important? Without custom photography or illustration, it may not be possible to find an image that does it all – but custom is not necessary. Even a small library of stock images, when carefully curated, can help make your message consistent and say as much as possible with as few images as you can.

Typography

Stick to one font family (maybe two). Your primary font family should be a readable modern font (serif or san serif). Each type of text should have a prescribed style. For example, something like all headlines in bold, subheadings in semibold, and blocks of text in regular. If you feel strongly about keeping a second font family in the mix, use it infrequently and with a consistent purpose, such as callouts or quotes.

White space

Wherever possible, use more! If you have too much content to allow for greater white space in your materials, think about streamlining. Note that streamlining doesn’t mean simply “cutting text” but often involves reworking text to make certain it stays focused on the strategy behind your messaging framework. (Don’t have one? Here’s how we create them.)

So the minimalism trend is here to stay, and that’s not a bad thing. Simple, clear, easy-to-read…those are nice traits, especially in a visually-saturated environment. So give it a try, but do it carefully and with purpose.

Less IS more, and that’s why it’s critical to say more with less.

Kim Vanni is Spencer Brenneman’s Senior Art Director. Learn more about her and everyone on our team.

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