Minimalism is a visual style that originated as an art movement after World War II. It has an established history in the realms of architecture, interiors, art, graphics, fashion, and virtually every other facet of design.
In its most basic version, minimalism is about designers expressing only the most essential and necessary elements of a product or subject by removing any excessive components and features.
As minimalism has grown in popularity, it has been applied to music, design, architecture, packaging, fashion, and even lifestyles.
As a philosophy, it promises that stripping down and simplifying our lives will help us cope with an overwhelming and chaotic world. This way, we only focus on the most critical characteristics of whatever it is we are interacting with .
More recently, minimalism has become a popular design style for product packaging, particularly for specialty coffee. According to recent studies, millennials “gravitate” to minimalist branding, with some attaching greener and more ethical practices to companies that adopt it.
To find out more about minimalist design and its appeal for coffee roasters, I spoke with illustrator, designer, and Stubby Duckworth founder, Charlie Mertens.
The history of minimalism
Minimalism emerged in late 1950s New York. Artists such as Frank Stella, Nassos Daphnis, and Kenneth Noland had turned away from the styles of the previous generation and moved towards geometric abstraction – a form of abstract art based on the use of geometric form.
“Minimal art” emerged as a result of these early exhibitions.
Subsequently, minimalism flourished in the 1960s and 70s with artists that included Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Agnes Martin, and Robert Morris.
They applied the concept of minimalism to sculptures, constructions and installations – and in doing so, became the movement’s most important creators.
In the 1980s, minimalism made its way into architecture, with minimalist spaces gaining considerable popularity. Architects worked with fashion designers to achieve simplicity, often through the use of white elements, cold lighting, and open space. These characteristics have remained fashionable to this day.
Minimalism is now also one of the latest trends in packaging design. Brand strategists and packaging designers have realised that you can hone your brand by keeping your product design elements simple and focused, thus allowing the product’s key traits to shine through.
Why less appeals
Aesthetically, minimalism offers a puritanical form of beauty and design. It is also seen as representing attractive qualities such as order, simplicity, all of which can be echoed in a product.
Charlie explains that the appeal of minimalist design comes from its original intention and functionality.
“Since minimalist design only uses what’s needed, it is easier to communicate a message to the end user without room for confusion or distraction,” he says.
“Using a minimal approach can also add to a design’s versatility, as less elements and complex content can make it easier to format across different applications.”
He adds that because there are so many brands out there, especially when it comes to specialty coffee, minimalism can help you stand out in the crowd.
“Simple and recognisable key elements will go further for brand recognition in a crowded market and help your brand stand out,” he explains.
By leaving no room for confusion, he says, minimalism can help to tell your brand’s story. He believes that some brands try too hard, and this can result in an unclear brand vision.
“Minimal design encourages you to lock in to the most important function of your product while telling a clear and unique story,” he notes.
However, he points out that if it’s used incorrectly, minimalism can also fall into the trap of being too generic. Rather than simply watching what the industry is doing, he says, you should make the packaging your own.
Coffee brands and minimalist design
Minimalist design in coffee allows brands to focus on what differentiates them and what they want their customers to take away about their product, be that origin, roast strength, or flavour notes.
According to Charlie, one coffee brand that has successfully used minimalist packaging that stands above the rest is Madcap Coffee, designed by Seth Herman and Chuck Anderson in 2010.
“Using a woven label and a unique neon colour palette, their brand has continued to stand out for over a decade,” Charlie says. “Meanwhile, dozens of new coffee brands fall into the same trend-base solutions and get lost in the mix.
“I think successful minimal design is something that can stand the test of time, and the proof is on the packaging for Madcap.”
Charlie’s advice for coffee brands who are starting out their design journey is to spend more time looking inward then outward.
“It’ll be easy to want to look at other coffee brands for inspiration, but it’s important to figure out what your brand values and unique message is first. What’s going to make you stand out from the rest?”
He also encourages us to draw inspiration from other aspects of our lives that aren’t related to coffee. For example, he says, pay attention to t-shirt logos, the interior design of your favourite deli, or even the textures from your favourite book.
“The less you look at other coffee brands the easier it will be to stand out with your own unique story,” he concludes.
Minimalist coffee packaging has grown to become one of the most popular design packaging choices for coffee brands.
Not only is minimalist packaging effective for drawing attention to your brand’s key traits and telling your brand story, it is also aesthetically pleasing. If done correctly, it can help you remain competitive among a growing sea of coffee brands.
Whether you’re thinking about changing your packaging design, or are just starting your design journey, MTPak Coffee can help you achieve your desired packaging goals.
Our expert design team can guide you all the way from concept to completion. What’s more they can also offer additional advice on materials, sizes, and components.