Psychology of Minimalism in Design

Psychology of Minimalism in Design

the psychology of minimal design

Merriam-Webster dictionary describes it as “a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterised by extreme spareness and simplicity.” Today, Minimalism is applied in a variety of fields but it still maintains its fundamental core of simplicity. How can the deliberate act of “designing less” enhance the way users perceive, engage with, and ultimately benefit from digital interfaces and products?

You might be aware of the “less is more“ approach. Minimalism is exactly that. It extends beyond aesthetics and is about simplifying one’s life by reducing unnecessary clutter, possessions, and distractions, and focusing on what truly matters. In fact, Hook et. al (2021) conducted a study on minimalism and its impact. 80% of the studies found a connection between voluntary simplicity or minimalism and enhanced well-being.

A Deep Dive into Minimalism and User Perception 

Often labelled as design’s most enduring trend, minimalism promotes not only a personal style but also a way of living. One of the top requests from people making decisions on their interior style is that they want it to remain “minimal.”

Minimalism has remained steadfast and unlike trends that fade away, its fetish for minimalism remains strong. Dieter Ram, a German designer who wrote the book Ten Principles of Design seems to agree, as he writes, “Good Design is as little design as possible…back to simplicity.” The minimalist movement has been around for almost a century. Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify and simplify!”

The theory behind our human attraction to minimalism is as simple as the concept itself. When faced with complexity, our brains often find it overwhelming and less engaging, so we naturally gravitate towards simplicity. A user’s experience with minimalism allows them to focus on what is there in front of them. This eliminates the distractions that would’ve subdued or diluted the user experience. 

So what exactly is user perception and how is it impacted by the minimalist style? Simply put, it is related to how individuals understand their experiences and their interactions. This could be anything from the environment such as products, services, and interfaces. Minimalism impacts user perception because it is shaped by a combination of processes like cognitive and sensory input, emotional responses and even personal differences. 

Let’s explore how minimalism guides or enhances user perception.

1. Visual Hierarchy

Visual hierarchy is a phenomenon that refers to how some elements in our surroundings stand out more than others. The concept of visual hierarchy is kept in mind when designing so that the user’s perception is guided towards the important elements first. The user is able to pay attention to the entire design according to the hierarchy of importance. 

This phenomenon which is essential to human perception is strongly related to minimalism. If employed strategically, designers can direct the user’s attention to important components. The ability to easily discern what is important makes users feel more satisfied overall and reduces cognitive burden.

2. Sensory Input 

Minimalism has a key impact on visual clarity and auditory simplicity. With little information and the presence of ideas that are key to making decisions, users can make correct and important choices without getting distracted. The unnecessary elements are eliminated in minimalism. The user can now focus only on the core content. Similarly, we can extend this to auditory sensory stimulation. When obtrusive sound cues are reduced, it leads to a pleasant user experience. 

3. Cognitive Processing

Cognitive load refers to the amount of information the working memory of our brain can process in a given amount of time. Therefore, a cleaner and minimalist design will ease cognitive strain. Information will be processed more efficiently. 

4. Decision Fatigue

Decision fatigue refers to the overwhelming feeling that occurs when you need to choose from too many options. The more decisions you have to make, the more tired you become and the process of efficient decision-making is hindered. Minimalism presents you with far less options. It believes in “less is more,” and thus helps you alleviate decision fatigue. 

Read: How does overthinking Impact our Decision Making

5. Emotions

Minimalism is associated with calm and serenity. The uncluttered environment reduces stress and frustration. This positive emotional response has a direct impact on the user’s perception of the website, design, or product. They are more likely to view it favourably. In the context of personal minimalism, decluttering one’s living space influences us. A tidy and uncluttered environment can reduce feelings of anxiety and promote a sense of serenity


Minimalism today goes beyond being just a design philosophy. User perception refers to the degree of our understanding of a concept. It’s the way of regarding, understanding and interpreting something. Minimalism helps guide us to make such a platform for users where they can make sense of complex interfaces. As we read above, the psychology behind minimalism goes beyond the aesthetics. It does have a positive impact on one’s mind and well-being.  

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