Why aesthetics matter in minimalism

I read an interesting article in the New York Times a while back called “Beauty and the Bento Box

It talks mostly about Japanese culture, and how they as a society have always had to get by on less natural resources so the culture evolved into making do with very little.

John Maeda writes:

The “more” is simply the addition of visual or tactile aesthetic features that may range from the subtle to overt.

Have a small block of wood? Make it red so that it stands out more.

Or cut out a notch randomly into the block for a curious shape that’s more interesting to examine with your hands.

Make one side smooth and the others rough so there’s more contrast.

Create a hollow space in the block to house a bell inside.

This is a natural reflex among artists and designers.

By combining critical thinking with critical making, the humble block of wood transcends its simplicity by the addition of idea of an unexpected nature.

John Maeda is the president of the Rhode Island School of Design and author of “The Laws of Simplicity.”

Minimalism craves beauty

And it started me thinking about why we care about design.

We want the little things that we purchase, to be an all-in-one: beautiful, functional, and simple to use.

As a minimalist, I want everything that I buy to be exactly what I want, but also pleasing to look at.

Look at the new Apple Magic Mouse that released earlier this year for $69:


It’s beautiful.

I cannot think of a more minimalist design.

Sleek, wireless, no buttons, and just a touch pad on the mouse. If I was in a market for a mouse, I’d certainly try this one out first.


Having limited resources means a necessity for beauty

If you have very little money, whatever you save up to buy, must be the perfect item.

In my Apple Magic Mouse example above, if I wanted a mouse, I should just buy the Magic Mouse and be done with it.

Sure, it may be $59 more expensive than a cheap $10 plastic mouse in the Bargain bin, but if I were to go cheap on the ONE mouse I hope to ever own, I would crave for a second, nicer mouse.

Then a third mouse.

And finally, I will eventually end up buying the original Magic Mouse I wanted in the first place.

It is so contrary to being a minimalist, collecting all of these substitutes, that you might as well save up the money to buy what you actually want, rather than to fill your life with knock offs.

You will also waste money along the way, spending $10, then $20, then $30, and finally $69 for a grand total of $129 when you could have just bought the original item you wanted (and needed!).

Make less, look like much, much more with aesthetics

You eat with your eyes first.

Beauty doesn’t just exist in physical goods, but in food as well.

This is where the Japanese excel, by making bento boxes, or highly decorative food lunches such as the one shown below:

bento box

If you were to grab the entire lunch and throw it onto a single plate, all mixed and mashed together, it would seem like a hearty plate of food, but not nearly as satisfying.

Or how about sushi? If you look at some decorative sushi, it almost takes your breath away with how delicate and beautiful it is.

large_boat of sushi

Sure, you could just mix cut pieces of fish, slap some rice on top of it, and rip up some seaweed to go over top, but the experience of the meal will not be as satisfying.

Plating the dish and creating a feast  for the eyes first, is something all chefs understand.

You can make a small little appetizer look like much more, when it is plated and presented correctly.

And a simple teapot? Perhaps it can double as decoration as well.

The Sorapot


The Mistea Snail Teapot

Snail Teapots

Via The Web Urbanist

Looking for aesthetics forces us to consider the choices we make

In the end, we might be such perfectionists for beauty and functionality, that we end up not buying anything at all.

Win-win. 🙂

About the Author

I'm a 20-something year old girl who lived out of a single suitcase in 2007, and now I'm living with less, but only with the best. You don't have to get rid of everything to become a minimalist! Minimalism can help simplify and organize your life, career, & physical surroundings. You can read more about me as a minimalist. Or come and visit my other blog Fabulously Broke in the City where I got out of $60,000 of debt in 18 months, earning $65,000 gross/year.