The original Maximalism style
Maximalism is the original de facto graphic design style with a big emphasis on hand-drawn and figurative elements with layers of pattern to compensate for the lack of colour. As brands were first being created in the 19th Century, they wanted to create distinction by being elaborate and figurative as this was the reassuring hallmark for quality, reliability and service.
Other examples include early Coca Cola branding and artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) who is considered the grandfather of graphic design, creating a large catalogue of commercial work such as advertising posters alongside his paintings in Paris.
The birth of minimalism
Minimalism in design started in the early 20th Century with the Modernist movement. Key influencers on modernism was the Bauhaus school, Cubism and Constructivism. The less is more ethos was symbolic for moving away from the Victorian era and embracing new and modern thinking around function and form. In graphic design it saw the birth of simplification, clean lines, extended use of white space and san serif typefaces.
Modern day mixing
Arguable in many ways, the minimalist style is dominant with global brands such as Apple and Nike able to communicate a lot with very little. Postmodernism is how maximalism lives on today and emerged in the 1960s as a reaction to the sometimes sterile and impersonal modernist movement. This saw the return of serif and more decorative fonts and an acceptance of less order and rationality, preferring complexity, contradiction and ambiguity.
The two design philosophies have evolved side by side and provides a rich source of inspiration for creating brand communication today. The benefits of minimalism is how easy it is to use once you have gone through the hard work of creating just the right amount of design to create distinction and a process of application.
Yet maximalism is very exciting, visually appealing and full of energy with the muscle to catch attention in a noisy and busy world. There is also a consistent track record of maximalism in luxury consumer brands. Therefore, the context of what is mini or maxi will depend on your brand and sector as each will have different parameters depending on the positioning, history and audience. The further blending of minimalist and maximalist ideas creates a great deal of versatility in brand communication with different tones being set, depending on the communication need.
I believe that the strongest graphic design is a combination of what you create (your assets) and how you use it on communication collateral. This is where minimalism and maximalism can converge to provide new and exciting possibilities for brands. Knowing how to manage the balance so that the execution is just right is the key to successful brand communication.