The Battle Between Psychedelic & Minimalist Design: Which Side Are You On?


A minimalist would say Less is more, but on the other side of the spectrum, an advertiser would argue: The bigger, the bolder, the better! Who would you believe, and which is really better–all, or nothing?

Psychedelic and Minimalist art are very different aesthetically, but equally brilliant. Both can be effective in certain instances, and both can flop. Psychedelic art is about boldness and richness. Minimalist art…just the opposite –stripping a design to its bare essentials.


The Psychedelic art movement, as the name suggests, is visual design inspired by psychedelic experiences while the artists were on hallucinogenic drugs like LSD, psilocybin and mescaline. Psychedelic art was at its height in the 1960s, along with the psychedelic culture and music. It is characterized by bright, bold colors, art nouveau styles, incomprehensible typography, kaleidoscopic patterns and dream-like subject matters.

Photo by Leonid Afremov

Psychedelic art went hand in hand with music in the sixties. Most album covers are dream-like inspired. Above is the album cover of “Flowers’ by the Rolling Stones.Psychedelic art started with the perceived notion that an altered state of consciousness created by drugs can be a source of creative inspiration. The philosophy is similar to surrealism, except that surrealism obtained inspiration from dreams, rather than from hallucinations. The art movement quickly spread worldwide. Soon psychedelic art spread to music, fashion, and then the whole 1960’s hippy culture. By the end of the sixties, the advertisers had caught on to the movement and used it to promote their products.

Although psychedelic art was believed to exist only in the sixties, it has experienced a bit of a revival recently in both art and advertising. Psychedelic imagery is great for catching attention through bold colors and typography. If overdone, it can look gaudy and horrible, if done right, it can look tasteful and attractive. Colorful, psychedelic art hints at life, fun, youth and enjoyment.

Image by

Image by Spray Graphic

Image by: The Coca-Cola Company


Minimalism is a trend in art and design where the canvas is stripped down to its utmost core, taking away all the unnecessary elements. Minimalist art’s main philosophy is: ‘Less is More’.

The minimalist style was highly influenced by traditional Japanese design and architecture. It started with the De Stijl movement, a Dutch artistic movement that started in 1917. The artists of the movement used only basic elements like lines and planes, and primary colors like blue, yellow, red and black.

One of the first Minimalist advertisements is the ‘Think Small’ Volkswagen Beetle ad by Julian Koenig. It is considered by Ad Age as the best advertising campaign of the 20th century. The campaign was so successful that not only did it boost sales, but also created the branding for Beetle.

The most famous company today to adopt minimalism is Apple. Steve Jobs is a well-known minimalist. While their competitors try to cramp more and more features into their gadgets, Steve Jobs try to take away unnecessary features. Instead of deciding what to do, Jobs is more keen in deciding what not to do.

Image by: Apple

Every gadget of Apple screams ‘minimalist': Macbook Pro, Macbook Air, iPod, iPad, iPhone and the Apple TV. Its purpose is to simplify life, not to impress by packing it with (unnecessary) features.

Minimalism looks clean, simple and fuss-free. Some people praise the trend, yet others call it ‘artistic laziness’. Are we artists really becoming lazy in creating high quality work?

Now, minimalism is not only limited to art. It transcends all facets of life: art, fashion, music, interior design, architecture and even technology. We want to live more with less–not by reducing our wants and needs, but by simplifying and streamlining them.

Psychedelic vs Minimalist in Web Design

Here is a collection of beautiful designs using both the Psychedelic and Minimalist design aesthetic in web design. This will hopefully provide fresh ideas on how to approach your future projects or work.

Psychedelic Web Design

1. Ed Peixoto

Here is a wonderful Psychedelic web site design by the talented Ed Peixoto. It incorporates the usual Psychedelic elements of bold colors and repeating patterns. The site is an embodiment of Ed Peixoto’s design philosophy: I create Flavors. The site is impressive and tastefully done.

2. Nisgia

Nisgia is a web site created to impress. It is a colorful, interactive Flash-supported site with great ambient music. Nisgia is the online portfolio of John Panagiotou, a graphic designer currently based in Greece.

3. Studio 7 Designs

Studio 7 Designs is colorful and dreamlike, but earthy at the same time. It makes uses elements found in nature, such as the Earth, trees and the Aurora Borealis. The polar bear is even used in the logo. Studio 7 Designs maintained its message in its web design: environment friendly, eco focused and nature based design.

4. Carbonmade

Carbonmade’s web site is not totally psychedelic, but it still incorporates colorful, whimsical and dream like elements. It is child-like, like a doodle from a young kid’s notebook. I personally love their web design, it reminds me of lollipops and cotton candy.

Minimalist Web Design

1. Good Fucking Design Advice

I like the design and concept of the site–it’s straight to the point. It is minimalist down to its very core: use of white space, limited colors, Helvetica typeface and no images. The site goes all out to show that it wasn’t created to impress. But rather, to provide good fucking design advice.

2. Steven Held

Steven Held’s site is so easy on the eyes. Everything you need to know, the why, the how and the what is there. It makes use of the CMYK color palette, Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black, a color scheme familiar to all graphic designers. It’s obvious that the web design concept was carefully thought out.

3. Olivier Heitz

Olivier Heitz is the portfolio of an interaction designer and art director. Oliver Heitz shows that you don’t need a lot of elements to catch attention. His home page design seems barely finished. It’s the epitome of the minimalist less is more ideology.

4. Sandra Dussault

Sandra Dussault is another portfolio I enjoyed. The design is simple, but the concept is epic. She based her online portfolio on a sketch pad, where you can see her works as pages ripped from her sketch book. You can even draw your own ideas on her home page! As seen below, The home page has a blank square. I drew a singing girl inside it using a mouse, and it provided me 5 minutes of fun.

Application to Your Art and Design

A little bit of both. Apple’s iPod advertisement series make use of loud colors common in the psychedelic movement, but with only the most vital elements being minimalist.

Less is more. A single, strong picture could say a thousand words.

Why does minimalist design work well? Today’s advertisements, posters, billboards, magazines and web sites are full of color and elements. In this world full of clutter and noise, it can get confusing for consumers. It’s nice to have time for your eyes to rest, time for a breather. Minimalist ads offer you that ‘breath of fresh air,’  providing white space where the viewers eyes can relax. Minimalist ads are quite often very witty, with only one strong subject telling the whole story.

Why is Psychedelic design so effective? Psychedelic art is a great attention grabber. Billboards, web sites, print ads and TV ads with bright colors will instantly turn heads. By using colorful, psychedelic design, the product or brand is seen as fun, vibrant and active.

Psychedelic art used to be a way of life in the sixties. It was the youth’s counterculture. Now, it is not as strong as before, but advertisers have taken a lot of elements from it to sell or promote products.

Now, minimalism is the lifestyle. Whether or not it will last, we do not know yet. Probably not–the world is so fickle nowadays. But for now, minimalism is enjoying a strong and active influence in art, design and life in general.

Psychedelic design is good for:

  • Great for target audience with low attention spans, e.g., children and teenagers.
  • Billboards and street advertising. Pedestrians and drivers do not have time to look at street advertising for more than a few seconds. You need a bold, wild idea to turn heads in an instant. Using Psychedelic designs are perfect for catching attention in a split second
  • Convenience and shopping products. These are products that we use everyday–such as soda, candy or energy drinks. They are also called impulse purchases, or items that you buy without thought or plan. The bolder the color, the more they will ‘pop’ against their competition.
  • Products that want to appear young, lively and full of life.

Minimalist design will best apply to:

  • Target audience is educated and well informed.
  • Advertising medium where viewers have plenty of time to digest the design. This includes magazines, books and web sites.
  • Specialty products like cars, designer hand bags, laptops or jewelry. Minimalist design will give more focus to your products and the features.
  • Informational web sites. Bright colors and overloaded elements will distract viewers and turn off readers from perusing furthermore.
  • Products that want to appear chic, professional and sophisticated.

In regards to the question as to which is better, the answer lies in the client’s intended message and target market. As my examples above show just because you prefer Psychedelic doesn’t mean that people will think you’re youthful or unintelligent, or that if you prefer Minimalism you’re old and very intelligent. There are instances that minimalist design will work better than psychedelic, and vice versa. It requires information, thorough research and common sense to know when and where Psychedelic and Minimalist design will work best.



  1. Nice perspectives. Nice articles. Agree with others here. Minimalism is great for web content as it is to the point. Psych design is an creative outburst – the force may strong with you – but are you able to control it and not distort the message? Think that is key.

  2. Caesar Tjalbo

    The problem with the examples is that ‘psychedelic’ is rarely used as a style these days but more as an influence. That Coca Cola poster would be ‘minimalist’ in the hippie world of the late ’60s. The Nestea poster has a styling with elements that don’t borrow so much from psychedelica as from architecture or print ornamentation. And so on, the examples contain a nod to ‘psychedelic’ at best, making me more think of expressionism or pop-art and the likes.

    Anyway, “The Battle Between Minimalist & non-Minimalist Design: Which Side Are You On?” isn’t particularly catchy, I suppose.

  3. 27 Graphics

    I would have said that I used to be more a minimalist designer but at the moment I’m swaying towards more a psychedelic feel. To be honest, it also depends on the project.

  4. Rachel, THANK YOU for featuring my site in your article. I spent countless hours coming up with a great concept to base my design on. I’m glad that others “got it” and appreciated it as you did. I definitely design more with minimalist flair but both are symbiotic and necessary to the another.

    Each style holds its own and is very important but used together they become stronger. For instance, a magazine heavily featuring one style over the other will satiate its audience. But one minimalist ad in a sea of psychedelic ones will ultimately stand out and be the strongest or vice versa.

    Once again, thanks for featuring my site. You rock! :^ )

    • No problem, Steven :) And to others, thank you also for taking time to read my article and share your side.

      I myself am more ‘minimalist’, although I do appreciate a dash of color here and there. I do admit that there are many bad, ‘lazy’ minimalist designs on the web. But if tastefully done, minimalist design can be very powerful. Same goes for Psychedelic.

  5. Minimalism in web design is getting really boring/played out. It is so easy to emulate that you see it everywhere. Psychedelic at least takes effort so it will be a lot harder for it to become “that trend” that we see so much you begin to hate it.

    • @Tyler the argument can just as easily be made for the other side. Just pop some LCD and make a psychedelic website. Oh how easy was that?

      Before you so easily dismiss one form of design, consider why minimalism is used more often in web design. The web, for the most part, is about accessing information quickly, easily, and effectively. Minimalist web design achieves that very purpose at its core. Now I’m not dissing other designs out there, as there are always a place for other design/ideas. I’m just commenting on the fact that you said it is becoming boring/played out. There are many emulators that try to achieve minimalism design and fail. Those attempts are tiresome and boring and are what you see more often than not. But good, solid, well-thought out minimalist sites are a feast for the eyes and function of the web.

  6. Lourens

    Nice article, I like the conclusion (for which brand/project is minimalist design better). Louis Vuitton is one of the worst examples though: One of their most succesful bags are the really decorated ones designed by Marc Jacobs. I consider those way more psychedelic than minimalist.


  7. First of let me tell you the Title of the article is super cool & the quality of the article is really superb, I should say 1stWD is raising their bar much higher & providing with such great content.

    And as for the article I am fan of both Psychedelic as well as minimalist design, cant just choose any one of them they are both awesome in their own way.

  8. Great article, with really nice examples!
    I must say that I agree that certain projects call for more detail or to be more psychedelic, while others more minimalist.
    Ususally designers have a preference for one or another, but I think more diverse designers can appreciate both.