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I’ve always been somewhat impressed by minimalism in design, in particular because I am quite incapable of it: viz my rather lengthy blog posts and my ability to double word limits on law assignments.

Something I’v noticed recently is that people have begun referring to Google as minimalist (usually in the context of Bing, a much less minimalist design), but also their new Chrome brower. Honestly, I had never thought of it that way. I had always considered Apple to be the minimalist technology company. Steve Jobs is deadly with a powerpoint, known for his ability to maximise the impact of slides by having as little on it as possible. Focussing everything on a single point. I’ve never used a Mac, but from my experience with the iPod, iTunes etc, this minimalism stretches across the board. This is hardly surprising but what is surprising is that it is so functional! The click wheel is surely a work of genius, allowing you to do every function necessary on an mp3 player whilst still being intuitive. I was trying to find the new features for v3.0 of the iTouch software, and stumbled across Apple’s website. It managed to cram all those features into a single page in a way both aesthetically pleasing and putting in all the details. Delightful. It also had the added benefit of disguising the fact that there were actually very few useful additions to the software.

Which is why Google Chrome is such a failure. It takes the racing car approach to minimalism. Let’s strip the car of its extra seats, crumple zones, comfort padding and it’ll run like magic. It justs removes function for design, which is not a trade-off one should be making. It essentially removes all the useful functions I like in a browser and puts them into two little menu tabs (rather than the traditional 6 or 7, making each menu tab much larger than it needs to be). It becomes self-defeating. It becomes less intuitive.

On the other hand, I continue to admire its search page. http://www.google.com if you’ve never visited it. I do recommend you do. A single Google picture over the single search bar. A few options delicately placed on the side, advanced users being able to type more complex Boolean type searches directly into the searchbar. The fantastic thing about the Google picture is that it is so standard you can change it slightly for quite a powerful effect – as they do to reflect special occasions.

The most important thing to note is that they allow customisation. If you don’t like minimalism, feel free to use iGoogle. This is a feature that Apple is notably lacking. A well-designed page is all well and good, but sometimes the lawyer in me needs to see all the details. The v3.0 iTouch page being an example- I’m still not sure if it allows me to use 3G wireless access (I doubt it does). The App dl page on iTouches and iPhones are a delight to use. But by omitting the terms and conditions, the privacy terms I am deprived of my ability to discover exactly what these applications can do to my data. for instance, I want to sync my Google calendar to my iPod. I downloaded various programs to do this, but I need to input a password. How do I find out if this is a secure way of inputting my password? Do I merely rely on Apple’s vetting process to screen out apps which steal private password information?

My own attempts at minimalism are quite pathetic. I wanted to put up posters that really highlighted my personality. Instead, I ended up  with every available wall in my room completely covered with posters. I still have a heap of them in my drawer that I want to put up, should I have sufficient room. I just don’t understand. How do other people do it?

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2 Comments

  1. How do other people do it? Easy. Take a trash bag, put it in the center of your room. Then take everything from your walls (and I mean everything), rip it off, crumple it into a ball, and lob it in. Then, go to your desk drawer. Imagine you have 30 seconds to grab your most prized possessions out of there. What would you take. Quick, man!!!! You’ll be a burnt s’more in a second if you don’t hurry. OK, imaginary exercise over. Take out what you decided on, and then without looking, dump everything else into the trash bag. For good measure, get rid of most of the furniture with drawers you might have– with them comes the temptation to store crap you really don’t need. Keep your bed made, and your books shelved (coordinated by author’s last name, color, height, or publishing house optional). Voila! Minimalism.

    • lol Flori.

      Did you ever see my room in the US? It was actually reasonably neat, even if the walls had their own unique wallpaper. I was rather delighted by the effect of having the US map on one side and the world map on the other side, it turned out really well!

      But it took so long to clean the damned thing. It took me and Paul a whole day (till like midnight) to even put all my crap into boxes so we could cart it to his place in Irvine. Then it took me a week to turn that into 50kg I could ship back to Australia (much to the consternation of Paul’s dad. I believe one comment he made, in classic Republican style: “What happened in here? It looks like a terrorist hit the place!”) haha


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