At work we have a regular weekly design meeting. It is a fairly casual affair – the designers get around a table and talk about what they have been up to, any successes or problems they have had over the week. It’s a good way to catch up and knowledge share with other designers.

One of the designers normally makes a presentation, it can be about whatever they have been working on, something that has inspired them, really whatever takes their fancy but generally with a design focus.

 

Several weeks back I gave a presentation about Maximalism. I had mentioned the term in conversation but none of the other designers had heard of it. Everyone knows of it’s older sibling Minimalism but Maximalism it seems is like the forgotten middle child. True it is obscure term and there is not a lot written about it.

 

The extravagant use of elements in a design, painting, film or work of art. Me

In Popular Culture

Maximalism has been with us and will continue to be with us for a long time, continually reappearing in different guises. We see it appear in user interface design, art, film, interior decoration, even entire eras. At it’s best it can be a seamless mixture of many elements so that they have a sense of purpose that contributes to the overall aesthetic.

Like many things of a visual nature it is easier to show than explain, below I have picked out some prime examples of what is maximalism is.

 

In UI

Before the rise of Material design skeuomorphism reigned. Skeuomorphism had all the trappings of maximalism: lots of bevels, textures, drop shadow etc a PhotoShoppers wet dream! Were they necessary? No. Was it attractive? Often. Did it work for the most part? Yes. In terms of User interface (UI) skeuomorphism is a prime example of a Maximalist UI. It is clearly a style trend and like any trend, wait around long enough and it will come back.

The old Instagram logo was very much in skeuomorphism/maximalism mould. It hung in there for quite some time long after the trend passed, before it to finally succumbed to a refresh in the from Material design (for what it is worth I preferred the old logo).

 

In film

The director Wes Anderson fits well into the maximalist role, lots of colour, movement, action and texture carefully coordinated to produce a rich experience, Grand Budapest Hotel being a primary example.

 

In design

For a sense of how it manifests itself in design decoration have a look at maximalist interiors they have some very good examples of maximalism in design, interiors and architecture. Over the top and often very chic, even hipster …

In art and culture

As mentioned before it appears time and time again. Think of the Braque, Georgian and even the victorian era. They are all full of gilt edge and ruffle glory. The Victorian designer William Morris is a good example of the lasting endurance of maximalism in our culture. Beautifully designed and timeless Morris’s designs are still widely used this day.

More than a movement

Often when people hear the term Maximalism they think of clutter and cognitive overload. As opposed to the alleged Minimalist ideals of clutter free and ease of use. Both have a place and in the appropriate setting they work. Of course a lot of this comes down to personal taste; how you dress, what you like to watch and how you like to live. Regardless of what label is applied, what is important is something is well designed, how that design is executed comes down to many factors like trends, cultural environment etc.

Think of maximalism as the extrovert of the design world outgoing and sociable. It can be serious and it can be fun but like any design without careful thought and execution it will ultimately disappoint.