What we can learn from Italian cuisine about minimal design
Originally published by our MD, Rishabh Dev, on Techinasia
Leonardo da Vinci once said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Perhaps the same can be said about Italian cuisine too. It has evolved through centuries, passed on through generations and witnessed cultural influences from the length and breadth of the Roman Empire. Regional influences played a big role on the ingredients and risotto became native to the north, pasta to the central, and pizza to the south of the country. But through this evolution, what remained constant is the simplicity of the cuisine.
This simplicity is quite a contrast to the rich Indian cuisine that has witnessed its own share of evolution and influences through the centuries. Invasions and immigrations from Central and Middle East Asia, Iran and Afghanistan, have all lent their contributions to develop the cuisines that was predominantly influenced by the vedic texts until the late 12th century AD. When the British, French and Portuguese arrived, another round of evolution came by as these cultures amalgamated themselves into the local terroir.
Food and design
But why are we talking about food? Aren’t we a digital agency? Well, the answer lies in the fact that there’s a lot to learn about creativity and design from the truest art form – food. Food appeals to all the five human senses at the same time. Ask yourself this – when was the last time Beethoven appealed to your sense of touch or Picasso appealed to your sense of hearing? And when was the last time you were not excited to see the colors on a plate of food, hear the sizzle of the wok, the smells and tastes of exotic spices and herbs, and the texture of a dish that reminded you of home after a long day? Yes, that’s the magic of food. So what does food, and Italian Cuisine have to offer a designer in terms of learnings? Let’s find out.
Grandeur vs. simplicity
“Italian cuisine is like minimal design. Focus on the key ingredients without too much drama.” – Rishabh Dev
Indian cuisine relies on the grandeur of the preparation with its spices, herbs and condiments that go into the aromatic masalas adding layer upon layer of tastes and aromas. It is often very common for even the simplest of dishes to have as many as 20-30 different ingredients. Italian cuisine, on the other hand, is all about simplicity of the preparation with no more than eight ingredients in most dishes. The result is an uncluttered preparation with only the elements necessary for an extraordinary experience.
Think of a ‘Spaghetti aglio e olio’. Four ingredients – spaghetti, olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes – that’s all it takes, but the experience of eating fresh pasta and cold pressed olive oil is nothing less than divine.
Minimal design imbues the same principles of uncluttering the design space. Clean lines and white spaces draw the attention of the viewer to the central subject of the design and maintains its focus on delivering the necessary message to the audience.
From a web design perspective, this also allows you to maximize the server output because the website is not a resource-hog. Your website responsiveness improves, it loads faster, and needs less maintenance.
Attention to detail
What Italian cuisine loses in the grandeur quotient, it gains in the attention to detail. For example, a pizza made in wood fired oven is way better than one made in a gas or electric oven. The smokiness from the clay oven fired by wood chips adds a whole new layer of taste to the pizza that cannot be replicated by any other means. Even a basic pizza with no toppings can transform into a piece of food art. And what it does for the consumer is that it brings their complete undivided attention to each and every ingredient and flavor in the pizza.
Minimal design works in the same way. It allows you to get the user’s complete undivided attention on the details of your message. Clean lines, white spaces, and no more than two font faces help emphasize on one central subject that the user is looking for. No pop-ups, easy navigation and and better user experience adds to your website’s usability. When they are completely focused on what you have to offer, their thoughts don’t wander off while making a purchase decision which, in turn, helps you to improve the ROI of your web assets in a big way. Who wouldn’t want that, right?
Return to the basics
Wine and cheese have been an integral part of the Italian cuisine since the days of the Roman Empire when exotic wines and cheese were imported to Rome to satisfy the Roman elite. Over time, people understood that certain wines and cheese can be paired for consumption for a heightened experience of both. The rules of pairing were not written in stone, just a few guidelines of how certain flavors of the cheese complemented that of the wine. For example, a soft, fresh cheese like Mascarpone or Mozzarella goes well with a light bodied, fruity, white wine like a Moscato d’Asti, or a Prosecco better than a full-bodied red like a Barbaresco or a Chianti.
Minimal design is about returning to the basics of pairing the right elements together for a heightened user experience just like the wine and cheese pairings. The basics of space, color, contrast, prominent visuals and typography rule the design and set it apart from the competition with its overall usability and visual appeal.
In the end
Design is everywhere, in everything we see, in everything we experience. And everything within the sphere of life has something to inspire designers. So why not Italian cuisine?
Minimalism exudes class, it is a classic trend that never goes out of fashion. The simplicity of minimalism makes it easier for a brand to embrace. It is easier to maintain and it helps emphasize on the core brand message at all times. Clean lines, white spaces and captivating visuals help deliver a superior user experience that works for a host of different content types for big or small businesses. Nothing stay untouched by evolution, but the roots of minimalism remain the same even when the design preferences change with time.