In Search of a Bygone Aesthetic: Beyond The Sterility of Modern Minimalism - 02/10/2023

A reflection on the prevailing minimalism in design, its ties with capitalist structures, and a nostalgic look back at the artistry of past aesthetics.

Hello World

In the contemporary digital landscape, minimalism and flat design boast supremacy. Elegant and simplified designs prevail, spanning from the packaging of the apple brand to film production. The philosophy of “less is more” permeates every nook of the ordinary consumer’s life, often being associated with a badge of sophistication and modernity, and even an antidote to the intrinsic chaos of life. However, beyond the surface of few colors, minimalism invokes in me a sense of coldness, an absence of ethics that represents the pinnacle of capitalism, where productivity and profit are prioritized over artistic passion and human connection.

As a humble designer who is still learning, I find myself in this sea of minimalist designs, seeking the ancient connection/extravagance of a past time that I never got to experience. At the turn of the millennium, the optimistic idea of a chromatic and metallic future, with contrasting colors and “cool” shapes, was the best way to describe Y2K.

Similarly, the bubbles, vibrant colors, and humanistic touch of Frutiger Aero aesthetics also intimately intertwine with skeuomorphism - a user interface design technique that employs UI elements that mimic physical objects (for example, iOS5 or Android Jellybean (oh, how I miss the days of candy names!)). One of the examples of Frutiger Aero that I hold dear is the beloved Wii, which, along with other technologies and products of the time, used images of people and nature to create a more natural and appealing sensation, notably remarkable in technology aimed at seniors.

Curiously, my own timeline places me as a stranger in this nostalgic era for which I harbor such profound affection. I was born in 2004, parallel to Frutiger Aero, growing side by side with this style, however, as a child without full awareness of its prevalence and meaning at the time. Although my childhood was not permeated by a conscious appreciation of these aesthetics, an unexplained nostalgia still permeates my feelings when I encounter these artistic expressions from the past.

In reflection, the voyage through various design epochs not only fosters a profound appreciation for diverse aesthetic paradigms but also engenders a complex, emotional dialogue between the designer and the design. For someone like me, navigating through the dominating waves of minimalistic design while yearning for the vibrant, humanistic touch of the past, the journey becomes simultaneously challenging and enriching. It’s a continuous exploration of balancing the sleek, modern, and efficient with the warm, colorful, and nostalgically rich – endeavoring to weave threads of the past into the digital tapestry of the present, seeking resonance in a future where technology and humanity find a harmonious visual language. Thus, it is not merely a quest for visual appeal but a pursuit to encapsulate and express the underlying emotive currents of our evolving digital experience.