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In our last post, minimalism was in. Today, it’s maximalism.
For all our minimalists out there, you might want to make yourself a cocktail and put on some smooth jazz because today we’re going to wax romantic about embracing excess in graphic design.
The world calls it maximalism. We call it one of our favorite trends of the year.
According to Wikipedia, maximalism in the arts is “a reaction against minimalism…an esthetic of excess and redundancy.”
Maximalists use lots of bold colors, patterns, textures, layers, repetition, detailed intricacies, serif fonts, luxury materials and even—God forbid!—ornamentation. Very little—if any—white space. This style even calls for mixing and matching diverse elements that wouldn’t be caught dead together in a minimalist’s design.
If minimalism whispers quietly, maximalism gets up and shouts from the tabletop.
For our minimalists out there, it might be time to take a drink now. You’re going to be all right. We don’t expect you to change, just to appreciate those who are different than you. Let’s continue.
Maximalism in graphic design has its roots in the very beginnings of advertising. Trade cards originated in the 1700s, produced by craftsmen in the trades to promote their services. Their prevalence exploded with the advent of color lithography in the 1870s. In the Victorian era, they became a primary way to advertise not just services, but goods. In case you hadn’t noticed, the Victorians were rather fond of maximalism. This trade card from that era has all the hallmarks of this expressive style.
Thanks to MetroNova Creative, you can see more of these wonderful little pieces of commercial art here.
Some might say maximalism is a symptom of what Italian art critic Mario Praz called “horror vacui”—a fear of empty space. (While that may be true, we think Mario was probably a minimalist at heart.) This filling of empty space has influenced artists from the scribes of ancient monasteries to modern graphic designers today.
Today, that horror/desire is heavily influencing trends in fashion and interior design, as well as graphic design.
Quoted in Fast Company, David Alhadeff, founder of the design gallery and retail store The Future Perfect, said “There’s been more widespread acceptance of eclecticism in interior design and mixing periods and styles certainly trains the eye to appreciate maximalism.”
He credits in part a healthy economy to this more-is-more ideal. “When the economy feels bubbly and high, the appreciation and consumption of the wild and crazy goes up accordingly.”
Whether it’s minimalist fatigue, the economy, or simply a concept that calls for flooding the senses of the audience, maximalism is a major trend in graphic design today. But this style has always had its proponents and practitioners.
Let’s look at some very popular contemporary maximalists.
Any child of the ’70s knows the colorful, energetic work of Peter Max. A synesthetic, he hears colors and sees music, and those sensory experiences appear in his maximal work. We love his Woodstock Film Festival poster so much we wish we could have printed it. The gradient from orange to red alone is enough to make us swoon.
For more about Mr. Max(imalist), check out Lofty Blog’s post.
Of course, one of the most well-known rebel maximalists is David Carson. His work for Ray Gun ignored the gridlines and pushed the limits of graphic design in the 1990s. His namesake design company still does. Read more from the father of grunge typography on Magenta.
Every discussion of take-no-prisoners design HAS to include Stefan Sagmeister. The designer who said “Having guts always works out for me,” does not let fear of trying ever stop him. I dare you to just try to walk past his maximalist album covers for Lou Reed and the Rolling Stones without stopping. And if that’s not enough, check out the recent work for Aizone from Sagmeister & Walsh. Now that’s bold.
Beth Elliott’s lush creative direction for Victoria’s Secret flagship store in London, Kam Tang’s design for Read-Only stationery, and Julie Verhoeven’s multi-media work are just a few of the artists making the most of maximalist design today.
If you just can’t get enough of this over-the-top use of everything and the kitchen sink, check out Rebecca Gross’s maximal blog post, Big and bold: 10 ways to create amazing maximalist design. She includes lots of rich examples, with exploding colors, hypnotic patterns and PLENTY of horror vacui.
Go Maximal or Go Home
This approach is designed to intentionally flood the senses. It must be done with taste, combining elements that work together well, even though they may seem contradictory. The danger here, of course, is ending up with a mess. Like all great work, the maximalist style must be driven by a concept that calls for it.
Printing technologies today certainly makes it easier and more affordable than ever to indulge your design maximalism. Here are just a few ways your favorite printer can help you bring out your max work.
According to the Pantone Color Institute, two sets of strong color palettes will emerge in 2019. Cravings are inspired by fetish foods and will include spicy reds, sweet flamingo orange and rich purples. Classico will lean toward luxury with deep teals, burgundy reds and caviar blacks.
From interiors and fashion to the commercial arts, our world will be color-rich in 2019. Both digital and offset printing can help you bring the color like a maximalist pro.
Colors, images and even text that bleed off the page are all hallmarks of maximalism. Cover that paper edge-to-edge in PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet, 2018’s Color of the Year. Add ornate patterns, rich details, interesting imagery and altered fonts for full maximal effect.
From textured papers to velvety varnishes and soft-touch printing, tactile elements can impact the whole piece, or be used sparingly and powerfully on the details. Embossing and debossing, as well as thermography, can add levels of sophistication and luxury.
Other printing techniques that add lavish layers include metallic inks, foil stamping, and custom die-cuts. Unique papers, too, are always a way to intensify the richness of your work.
Here at Mingo, we’re suckers for this lush style. Just take a look at one of our mailers from 2017. We had a blast putting together this wonderful maximalist mash-up.
We hope this inspires you to indulge in some maximalism of your own. And for our minimalists who’ve had the cold sweats through all this, don’t worry. Minimalism will never really go out of style.
Just take a deep breath and throw in some big bold color once in awhile. And promise you’ll let us print it. ca