I've heard a lot of people talking about intentionality recently. They talk about it in the context of their clothes, with capsule wardrobes; or in their diet or relationships or hobbies or free time. I'm not always one to hop on a bandwagon of what's trendy, but I do feel like intentionality is only a good thing for our lives, and there's a huge place for it in design.
Shouldn't we all be asking ourselves, "Does this serve a purpose for me?" in more than one aspect of our lives?
I'm no expert, but I've had a few young designers bring their work to me asking for feedback, and very often, I see clutter. Unnecessary elements in their overall design that really don't serve a purpose. When I ask them why they chose to include those elements, they all say the same thing: I just liked it and thought it would look cool.
Now I'm all for aesthetics (duh), but when we're choosing to include things in our design (or life) that we just like or just look cool, we're risking adding clutter, and we really need to ask ourselves if that's enough to justify it.
Design is built on concepts: a purpose for what you're doing. If any element doesn't fit into that concept, and you just add it on a whim, it's probably not enough. You need to be able to back up that choice with a reason that justifies why that element adds to the design.
I think we can be so afraid of white space (in design, on our shelves, in our closets, and in our calendars) that we crowd our minds and our design with things we don't need. But when we make room for the things that really matter, we will not miss the clutter that didn't serve a purpose for us.
I was an intern for The House that Lars Built a couple of summers ago, and their interview process was really cool. They first had a normal interview with me, but then they took me into their glorious basement filled with all of the craft supplies, props, and design resources you could ever want. Plus, it's all organized with labels and tupperware boxes in alphabetical order, which was way more important to me that I anticipated. ANYWAY, they took us down there, gave us a box and wrapping paper, and asked us to wrap the box and make our own bow.
I was a bit like a kid in a candy store. I grabbed everything I could hold and took it upstairs to make the most epic bow of all time (btw, there were like three other people making bows at the same time as me...pressure was on!). I had so much ribbon and I had even grabbed straws to see if I could make them work (not just any straws...they were adorable and would have looked sooo good with the wrapping paper). About 20 minutes in, I wasn't happy with all of my knick knacks, and my present was starting to look like a carnival had thrown up on it. I didn't want them to think it was weird that I was spending so much time on this assignment. I panicked a little and took away the straws. I took away three types of ribbon. I was left with one strand of thick twine. I turned the box on its side so it would stand tall, and tied a really full, fun bow (thanks, mom, for all those Christmas ribbon lessons). I knew it was the winner, and it had only taken me 5 minutes (after the 20 minutes of failure).
I then went back into the interview room and was asked to explain why I wrapped my gift the way I did. I had to defend my decision, and I told them about my process of eliminating things that weren't serving a purpose. They loved it, and I was lucky enough to get the job.
This quote by Antoine De Saint-Exupery sums up everything I'm trying to say: "A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."
Minimalist design isn't for everyone, and I think even designers that use more than a minimalist would still say that everything in their design has a purpose and couldn't be taken away.
Do you have stories about how cutting back made your life or design better? I'd love to hear in the comments!