Carl Barenbrug

Product design, creative direction

Minimalism Life

Over the past few months I’ve been working on completely redesigning and rebuilding a site from the ground up. This week we launched Minimalism Life Version 2, and it’s a project I’m super proud of for several reasons.

The project was initiated by an article I wrote last year on how to monetise a brand with minimalism at its core. This made me entirely re-evaluate Minimalism Life and what we could do with the site. We made the first important decision—to create a premium subscription package. We call this Inside Minimalism. The idea behind that is to write short essays with a small team of experienced writers on wide-ranging topics all with a connection to minimalism. The next question was ‘how we do we deliver this content?’ After much discussion, we rested on publishing directly to your email inbox. There’s a few decent services out there that manage this kind of thing, and we found one in Substack.

We wanted to maintain some of the features we liked from the previous site, such as our wallpapers and the journal, which is a great way for us to engage with our readers and give them the opportunity to share some of their own personal stories.

So we now had a very simple idea of what Minimalism Life (V2) would look like, but we wanted to completely rebuild the site from back to front. This included totally changing up our CMS, moving away from the increasingly bloated WordPress and moving to the flexible, file-based, and ultra-lightweight, Kirby. The build was all managed by Manu Moreale, who’s got great experience with Kirby and so he built a super-clean admin panel for us to work with. It’s all remarkably simple to use, and even simpler to maintain.

As for the design, I wanted the site to breathe—to be calm, clear, and focused on what it offers you. That meant introducing a lot of white space, contrast, and intuitive design components. I didn’t want to hide anything in a drawer, because that’s just an excuse to hide mess. Instead, I wanted to show everything we had to offer without being visually obtrusive. To achieve that, I had to be aggressively minimal with the design.

This was then coded entirely by Manu in a typically lite fashion, which has resulted in a much faster and easily maintainable site. You can get a bit more of a technical breakdown on his blog.

As our site is focused on the written word, it’s really important to use a font that is readable and well-designed. Although we have been using Campton for all our minimal maxims on social media, we didn’t feel this worked as a typeface for the new site, so we made the decision to change it. We finally chose TT Commons by TypeType. This will now become the typeface we use for all creative material.

Finally, we decided to refresh all our wallpapers—this time with a mix of shapes and inspirational quotes. Although some people might appreciate a quote as a visual reminder on their phone or desktop, I also wanted to introduce some simple, geometric shapes that would work well as wallpapers. This series will grow over time, but there’s a small selection available for you to freely download today.

It’s going to be difficult to predict how successful this new approach is going to be for Minimalism Life, but it’s certainly going to be an exciting year.

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