Less is more: How to refine and simplify your creative aesthetic for visual clarity

We’ve all heard the saying ‘less is more’ and, although there is no single origin or definition of this phrase that we know of, it is most often interpreted as taking a minimalist approach to design which will inturn maximise the clarity of the output.

While most frequently used in reference to design and architecture, this concept can be applied to all of the creative choices we make. From dressing ourselves on a daily basis, to decorating our home or composing that next snap for Instagram. Each step of the process can be curated and refined to obtain a more simplified and practical result.

Although it sounds like it should be easier to do less, the art of refining our choices can often be more difficult. To help you apply this philosophy to your own creative aesthetic, we are going to discuss a few easy ways that you can incorporate the mantra of ‘less is more’ to different areas of your life.

Embrace simplicity

Many popular design trends are inspired by the tapering back of unnecessary decorative elements to focus on form and functionality. Although creativity doesn’t always need to be functional it can help to think about ways to clarify the message or narrative you are trying to tell. Simplifying the elements of your composition can assist in clearer visual communication and increase the chance of your vision resonating with your audience.

Try not to overthink it and focus on the core message of what you are trying to achieve. Founder of Third Boi apparel Bianca Latorre says that when it comes to designing “it’s often almost more challenging to create something beautiful and original whilst resisting the temptation to over do it.” It helps to take a step back from your creation and question each element - does it help strengthen the story or does it distract from it?

 Keeping it simple at home. Photo by Lisa Lee featuring logo sweat from Third Boi.

Keeping it simple at home. Photo by Lisa Lee featuring logo sweat from Third Boi.

Use a limited colour palette

Experimenting with colour is a beautiful and powerful way to express yourself creatively and a simple way to clarify your vision is to reduce the number of colours you are working with. Although, applying a minimalist mindset when it comes to colour choice doesn’t mean you have to stick to classic monochromes or neutrals.

You can still make bold colour choices and experiment with prints or patterns, as long as you stick within a select range of complimentary shades. Working with a restricted palette can also enable you to focus more on other elements of your composition and make more deliberate choices when it comes to design, shape and hierarchy.

 Using a restricted colour palette doesn’t mean you can’t use bold colour or prints. Photo by Lisa Lee featuring her favourite items from Third Boi.

Using a restricted colour palette doesn’t mean you can’t use bold colour or prints. Photo by Lisa Lee featuring her favourite items from Third Boi.

Curate your collection

Whether you are styling your home or a photograph it is important to know what you want the focal point to be and then minimise the surrounding distractions. Trying to work with too many elements can be overwhelming, so start with just your hero piece and then see what else you need to incorporate to complement it visually.

Taking a simple approach to your home decor or fashion choices can result in a more elegant aesthetic where individual elements are able to be appreciated more. When items are given room to breathe they can be better recognised and celebrated for their unique design and architectural details.

 Reduce clutter to increase your creative clarity. Photo by Lisa Lee

Reduce clutter to increase your creative clarity. Photo by Lisa Lee

For the avid photo stylist it can be hard to part with props that you might want to use one day but clutter can be a creativity killer. The Marie Kondo approach to possessions is if they don’t serve you, they would be much happier to serve someone else. This philosophy is handy for focusing on what you actually need and identifying what is worth keeping on hand. Prioritising only what is truly beautiful or is needed for functional reasons can help simplify daily decision making and leave more time for creativity.

Maximise negative space

Experimenting with negative or white space as it’s often known can be very liberating. We are often tempted to fill up any space we have - whether it be hanging art on walls, decorating coffee tables or the filling the full frame of our camera. Knowing which areas to leave intentionally blank can often take a lot more consideration than simply utilising the entire area at hand.

There are many design theories, such as the rule of thirds or the golden ratio, that explore different ways to use negative space within art and photographic compositions. These methods support the notion that in order to be visually pleasing a composition must strike a harmonious balance between positive and negative space.

Considered use of negative space can also help you draw the eye of your audience directly to the hero or focal point of your space. By leaving the surrounding area intentionally blank or clear you can direct your viewer right to where you want them to look. This simple technique works for many creative applications of design, decoration or styling and results in a more dramatic impact.

Interested to read more on this topic? You might also enjoy our blog post: When less is more, finding freedom and fulfilment by living simply

In Summary

When we focus on doing less we are more deliberate, measured and present. We can prioritise what is most important and ensure quality over quantity. This results in a more fulfilling outcome for many people and there are a growing number of movements that support this ideology from slow living to capsule wardrobes.

Not everyone can find satisfaction in a minimalist lifestyle but when it comes to your creative expression incorporating less obstacles for your audience to visually interpret will enable you to more clearly communicate your point of view. Don’t make them work too hard to appreciate the story you are trying to tell or to admire the beauty of your artwork. Simply put - a more minimal approach can help maximise the effectiveness of your visual narrative.