Less is More

Less is more.

This is a statement,quote,phrase (whatever you want to call it) that can be heard increasingly more these days, when discussing the topic of design.

So what exactly does it mean?

'Less is More' is the phrase that expresses the power of reduction within a design and how it can have such a positive and improving effect on the product; a fusion of simplicity (less) whilst keeping the full functionality, to improve the overall product (more).

In effect, it simply means to strip everything down to its essential quality to achieve simplicity and still have the functional characteristics it is known for and expected to have.  For example, removing the excess outside layer of the cake to expose the inner body, creating an unusual product which would attract attention and get people asking questions, but still being a fully functional cake.

So where did the phrase come from? 

"Less is More" is a phrase from the 1855 poem " Andrea del Sarto, called 'The Faultless Painter'" by Robert Browning.

Who strive - you don't know how the others striveo paint a little thing like that you smearedCarelessly passing with your robes afloat,-Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says,(I know his name, no matter) - so much less!Well, less is more, Lucrezia.

Later on, the phrase was adopted by the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe as a precept for minimalist design.

So in order to obey the less is more statement, designers would usually have to consider factors of which can be reduced within their design(s) whilst taking into the effects that the alternations/changes/proposal ideas will have on the final product.

Examples of the application of "Less is More"

 A first consideration could be the reduction of material used within a product design. Instead of have a table with a 5 inch thickness, this could be reduced to 2.5. This saves the need for excess material, but on the other hand has multiple other positive factors. The reduction of material reduces the product's overall weight, making it user friendly as it is easier to maneuver and transport. The design would also be more slim, adding aesthetic value and sleekness to the design, however a main factor here would be cost. Less money is spent on material but also the transport/cargo needed to transfer the material from location to location, no forgetting the reduction in manufacturing costs as less processes would be required. See? A single reduction can produce a variety of, 'more's !

There are a huge selection of reduction points which can be considered, below are just a few:
  • Less material
  • Less varieties of material
  • Less eccentric shapes/more simple shapes (less edges/corners/curves)
  • Less components/parts
  • Less colours used
Of course, all reductions considered are done with consideration that there will be a positive outcome. Below are just a few of the improvements that reductions can have on a product:

  • Saves money spent on material
  • Reduced material varieties reduces need to source from multiple places/transport costs/fuel/impact on environment
  • Lighter product
  • Less manufacturing processes needed
  • Chance to explore materials and manufacturing processes
  • Reduced colours allows product to adapt into more environments compared to a busy colour scheme which may make the product difficult to adapt
  • Product can stand out from other products as it is bold/distinct/ has less decoration distraction
  • Use of 2 colours allows powerful contrast
  • Smaller products means convenient storage/efficiency 
  • Less waste/recycling
  • Allows you to express meaning in  raw state/straight to the point/powerful messages can be portrayed

Products that lie within the minimalist design sector.

2-way colours scheme of contrasting greys. Simple geometric shapes,sharp edges/corners. Single use of material. Made entirely of 2 components.

2 material choices. Elegant contrast of material textures. No surfaces decoration,raw finish. Striking, symmetrical visual.

Reduction of sharp edges, smooth and flowing form. 2-tone colour-way of contrasting metallic and matte finished surfaces. Made of only 2 components.