Less is more: Minimalism in retail

September, 26th 2017

Based on the original idea of the prestigious German architect, Mies Van Der Rohe, the minimalist design trend began in New York during the 1960s. It’s a trend that has gained momentum in recent years in both retail and store design due to its fundamental concepts including the purity of geometric shapes; the simplicity of surrounding elements; the stripping down to the essential and elimination of all unnecessary objects. By implementing the minimalist principals, retailers can create a harmonious store design featuring clean and crisp lines, clear and uncluttered spaces and muted, monochrome hues.

Historically, minimalism is often linked to luxury goods due to its innate way of combining elegance with austerity. Currently however, the trend is infiltrating other retail sectors and we can now find examples of minimalist design in stores of well-known brands such as Apple, Zara, Aesop, COS and Comme des Garçons.

If your goal in-store is to highlight your products by applying a functional yet freeing design style then minimalism maybe be what you’ve been looking for. Continue reading to discover the fundamentals of this influential trend.

01. Structural & Functional

The use of materials in their most pure form is an underlying characteristic of minimalism. Rough textures exploit the material’s natural state while uncannily smooth textures are achieved using extreme polishing. However, both form part of the minimalist aesthetic as they maintain the material’s essence. Stone, wood, cement, glass and steel are typically used to obtain this type of look and create structurally interesting architectural spaces in-store.  

02. Abstract & Attenuate 

The key objective for minimalism is to strip away all unnecessary elements from an item without it losing its purpose or identity. It uses only the fewest, barest essentials so as to focus only on the item and its true purpose. Minimalism is, in fact, a return to the design basics of contrast, colour, organisation and typography. The trend embraces streamlined monochrome backgrounds, contrasting block colours, simple grid-like lines and crisp typefaces.

03. Space & Simplicity

Stores that use a minimalist design appear to be larger and more spacious while their ordered space intentionally draws the eye to the displayed products. Spatial design and the number of products displayed are primary considerations when using minimalist design. The objective is to use as few furnishings as possible so that the beauty of the space is drawn from its distribution and simplicity. Thus, when choosing furnishings, streamlined furniture that maintains the pared-down aesthetic, like what you find in Apple and Lanvin stores, is ideal.

04. Light & Lines

Lighting in minimalism is fundamental as it enhances both the functionality and the design of the space. It should look to merge the walls with the ceiling to create an entirely connected “blank canvas” for the space. In fact, the lighting fixture is seen as purely functional and is seamlessly integrated into the walls or ceiling, as it is the distribution of light that is paramount whether it be in straight lines or geometric forms. Indirect lighting, where the light source is hidden and the light spreads throughout the space via reflection, also provides a pleasant ambience as the long, shadow-free lighting stings create a sense of spaciousness.