A History of Minimalist Graphic Design – The 10 Greatest Minimalist Poster Prints

It should be strongly stated that minimalist graphic design is not a new design movement. Nowadays, it seems that the internet is inundated with minimalist poster designs for the latest superhero movie or the newest Xbox game, but the fact is that using clear space and flat color in a design has always been an effective design strategy. When you can throw out all the graphical elements that you don’t need, you are left with a super-clear and distinct message that is easy to visually read and immediately appealing. In this post that covers the history of graphic design minimalism through a series of 10 posters, we have attempted to show you a  glimpse of some of our favorite minimalist graphic design posters and artists of the last century to the present day.

red_wedge

This propaganda poster nicknamed “red wedge” has been cited as the birth of graphic design minimalism

Original source: http://www.makefive.com/categories/entertainment/art/top-5-graphic-designers/el-lissitzky

1. Lazar Markovich Lissitzky 

The idea of “minimalism”  as graphical artform has its roots in artists like Piet Mondian and Henri Matisse. However, the genesis of minimalism in a graphic design environment came from the Russian Constructivist movement of the early 20th Century. The movement represented a major breakthrough in graphic design in which art became highly geometric, stylized, and minimal in form. It was in this propaganda art era that artists such as Lazar Markovich Lissitzky created masterpieces of simplicity. His artwork was especially expressive of the idea of graphical minimalism and could be considered as the birthplace of the minimalist poster. It represents simple but  high-contrasting imagery and beautifully composed typography that instantly appealed to the public in an age of political mass-persuasion.

lissitzky_minimalist posters

These posters look fresh and modern by today’s graphical standards! Lissitzky’s work has a timeless quality that still looks contemporary.

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emil-ruder spoon

Emil Ruder was a major contributor to the Swiss Style movement that put massive importance on contrast, form, and font

Original source: http://blog.wearefreerange.com/?p=412.Emil Ruder

2. Emil Ruder

Emil Ruder was one of the foremost members of the Swiss school of design thinking.  His almost mathematical approach to graphics was based on a grid layout in which  there are 24 possible positions and shapes of image. These limitations of positioning and composition gave rise to a distinctly minimal approach to design in which only the most important typographical and image elements are needed to communicate a design message. Fanatical about typography and the importance of the sans-serif font, he has become one of the most important figures in graphic design history.

Emil Ruder shows the minimalist approach of the Swiss graphic design style

Emil Ruder and the minimalist approach of the Swiss graphic design style

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Paul Rand poster for the Aspen Design Conference 1966

Eye-popping graphical impact – this highly abstract and minimalist  poster was created for the Aspen Design Conference 1966

3. Paul Rand

Pioneer graphic designer, Paul Rand is famous for his corporate identity development. Probably the most influential logo designer of all time, his uncanny ability to give meaning to the simplest shapes and symbols made him a legend in the world of graphic design. He brought the Swiss style to the USA by creating designs with simple and clear typography, crossed with minimal visual choices. Paul-Rand--Posterdesign

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7 seconds saul bass

The simple illustrative style of Saul Bass is reflective of  a golden era of movie poster design – the idea is key

Original source: http://www.saulbassposterarchive.com/

4. Saul Bass

The Godfather of minimalist poster design is Saul Bass. He is arguably the greatest  protagonist of this design style and the most famous movie poster designer of all time. His visually simple but impactfull poster designs are the antithesis of minimalism and the “less is more” school of design thought in which original typography and graphics are the lifeblood of the artwork. His high-contrast, action-packed movie poster designs of the 1960’s are particular works-of-art that people use as examples of  “high art” movie posters. The resurgence of  his unique illustrative style that was based in strong concept and idea is apparent in many of the posters we are seeing in 2013 ( a backlash to the “screenshot” style movie posters that people are tired of seeing.)

Further examples of Saul Bass movie posters, including the Vertigo poster that people cite as a graphical masterpiece

Further examples of Saul Bass movie posters, including the Vertigo poster that people cite as a graphical masterpiece

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An example of Shingeo Fukuda's minimal and surreal graphivcal style - his work is visually simple but undeniably complex.

An example of Shingeo Fukuda’s minimal and surreal graphical style – his work is visually simple but undeniably complex.

Original source: http://www.designishistory.com/1960/shigeo-fukuda/

5. Shigeo Fukuda

Shigeo Fukuda was associated with the  Pop Art movement but used Constructivist and Modernist ideals to create minimal designs in a three decade period that began in the 1960’s. His graphic design style has been massively influential  on a generation of visual artists and in particular, those designers who strive for a more minimal yet meaningful design approach.  Like Saul Bass, his designs are based upon strong concepts and ideas. He is particularly known for his use of visual illusions and high -graphic concepts that are beautiful, imaginative, and sometimes perplexing.

A selection of Shigeo Fukuda posters including the "Victory 1945" poster that won him a grand prize at the Warsaw Poster Contest

A selection of Shigeo Fukuda posters including the “Victory 1945″ poster that won him a grand prize at the Warsaw Poster Contest

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Ilmars Rumpeters minimalist poster design that displays the flat color and highly stylized graphical imagery that is so pleasing to the eye

Ilmars Rumpeters minimalist poster design that displays the flat color and highly stylized graphical imagery that is so pleasing to the eye

Original Source: http://butdoesitfloat.com/filter/Ilmars-Rumpeters

6. Llmars Rumpeters

Llmars Rumpeters is a Latvian graphic designer who has been creating brilliant minimalist design works since the 1960’s . His work is somewhat of a personal discovery of mine while researching this subject, and although he’s not as well known as other designers in this list, he is a wonderful proponent of the minimalist style. He was the main contributor to a Latvian magazine called Jauna Gaita  that is an absolute masterpiece of graphic design and minimalism.

A selection of Ilmars Rumpeter covers from the graphic design magazine, Jauna Gaita, spanning the 70's to the 80's.

A selection of Ilmars Rumpeter covers from the graphic design magazine, Jauna Gaita, spanning the 70’s onwards.

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nevill brody oceans 12

In this design, Neville Brody tips his hat to Saul Bass and the great minimal movie poster pioneers.

7. Neville Brody

Neville Brody is the UK’s most influential graphic designer. His work in the 80’s and 90’s on publications such as the Face and Arena set the graphical tone in the UK for much of those decades and beyond. Particularly known for his font and logo design, Neville Brody is a main proponent of the Swiss design movement of cleanliness, readability, and objectivity that was established by Emil Ruder, Paul Rand and other graphic pioneers. His work is often edgy, provocative, and minimal in composition. As shown in the Ocean’s 12 example above, it  is also still relevant, commercial, and appealing.

Examples of Brody's minimalist magazine cover and poster work

Examples of Brody’s minimalist magazine cover and poster work

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mike_joyce_modern_swiss

Mike Joyce is a contemporary proponent of the Swiss design style. His “Swissted” project is a masterpiece in style and simplicity

Original source: http://www.swissted.com/

8. Mike Joyce

Mike Joyce is a rockstar in the world of design. His clients have included Communication Arts, Graphic, Rolling Stone, How, Computer Arts, NME, The Village Voice, and The Huffington Post. His ongoing project called “Swissted” represents a massive design library of fantastic minimalist punk rock posters. Mike is a design and typography purist who lives and works in the West Village of New York City and refuses to design wedding invitations.

Further examples of Mikes "Swissted" project

Further examples of Mikes “Swissted” project

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Olly Moss is holding a torch for Saul Bass and that "classic" movie poster brilliance

Olly Moss is holding a torch for Saul Bass and that “classic” movie poster brilliance

Original source: http://www.empireonline.com/features/2010/olly-moss/

9. Olly Moss

Of all the new generation of minimal poster artists who blog and share their work online, Olly Moss is probably the most shared and tweeted of them all. This is probably because his work is so visually compelling and his particular brand of retro poster artwork is far beyond the typical art bloggers skill and understanding. His work regularly appears in magazines, video game covers, and  comic books. A selection of Olly Moss movie poster re imaginings

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The-Wolverine-2013-Movie-Teaser-Poster

A new style of movie poster that draws from the graphical art minimalism of the past – so much more artistic and interesting than typical movie poster product

Original source: http://bltcommunications.com/Project/the-wolverine

10. BLT Communications

BLT Communications is a media design company that specializes in posters and movie promotion graphics. Their most recent success was the Wolverine 2 poster campaign that took advantage of the popularity of minimalist poster design to create a truly memorable campaign that was deservedly applauded by both the graphic design and fanboy communities. This example has been included in this list to show how popular and mainstream this graphical style is becoming once again. Almost like a complete reemergence of the visually exciting poster work of Saul Bass, BLT Communications has recognized the power of keeping a poster graphically clean, neat , and full of energy – it’s so much more interesting than the typical movie photo-snapshot.

The movie posters are beautifully illustrated in this deceptively minimal style - representative of Japanese calligraphy and brushwork

The movie posters are beautifully illustrated in this deceptively minimal style – representative of Japanese calligraphy and brushwork

  •  Go to our main site for all your short run and bulk printing poster needs. We have a massive choice of sizes and substrates so that you can create  a poster campaign for your particular budget
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About ben

Ben Fellowes is a seasoned designer, writer, and marketing expert. He's designed and produced content for some of the worlds top agencies and marketing companies. He's currently working (and getting his fair English skin burned) in Southern California! He loves art, punk rock, horror films, Sci-Fi, comic books, real beer, cooking, eating, laughing, and crying (sometimes!)

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2 Responses to “A History of Minimalist Graphic Design – The 10 Greatest Minimalist Poster Prints”

  1. richardthompson.lgx@gmail.com'
    Richard Thompson @ Alphagraphics Says:

    Where did you find all of those eauropean posters? I really like the Russian posters. I got so much poster inspiration from this post.

    Reply

    • ben Says:

      Hi Richard,

      I found these posters through both internet and personal research of this subject (I’ve have always had a love for constructivism, Swiss style, and other early European graphic design movements). If you want a great resource for early C20 art and design, then the following Art History website is super useful: http://arthistoryresources.net/ARTH20thcentury.html

      Reply

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