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Minimalism Around the Web: Design Inspiration & WordPress Themes

This post showcases minimalist design from around the web, and briefly explains the ideology of minimalism. It is to be used as inspiration for anyone, and as a resource for web designers.

Minimalism. Underappreciated by Nature

Minimalism used in Website Design is under appreciated, as in so many other areas of design. Considering its nature, this isn’t so surprising. Minimal is a term used to describe work that is stripped to its most fundamental features. In other words only the basic and necessary elements are used, making it easy to miss the true beauty of minimalist works.

How can something be beautiful if there is nothing there? The real beauty of minimalist works comes from what is not there, and perhaps more importantly the functions each basic element serves. A minimalist reduces multiple elements that each serve different purposes into single units that have many visual and functional responsibilities.

It was first said by Robert Browning that “Less is more,” and since then his idea became a fundamental philosophy for minimalist ideology. His saying was later adopted by German Industrial Designer Dieter Rams “Less, but better,” which beautifully summarizes what Minimalist design is really all about. It’s using less, and creating a more fulfilling experience. Since then minimalism has been an idea that has influenced many of todays most renown designers, including people like Johnathan Ive (Designer of iMac, iPod, iPhone) and John Pawson.

Minimal Web Design Showcase

The bare, sleek appearance of Behind Design is complimented nicely by its focus-on-hover content areas.

Bureau for Visual Affairs uses simple elements like lines, numbers, and blocks of color to create a simple yet totally cohesive website. Minimal use of color draws the eye to desired locations in an instant, while a single image is of upmost importance to the viewer.

designhaus berlin isn’t just a portfolio. It feels like a portfolio. And it does so with hardly any visual cues aside from a typographic grid. Many of the pages display with separate background colors which resembles flipping through a creative portfolio in a more tangible sense.

Erratic Wisdom adheres to grid. How do we know? The whole background of the site is a dot grid with simple labels instructing viewers how to use the site.

Giles Revell’s Portfolio is straight to the point. Images featuring Giles work are even spread out across the page, and are identified in the page header when hovered over. No happy text, all very nice looking.

Maurice Kuhlborn’s site is split into horizontal bars, each with it’s own content. One of the bars doubles as a navigation, and a description of the current page being viewed.

Non-Format’s uses a splash page of sorts , which immediately gives you an idea of the caliber of work the rest of the site contains. Navigation expands and collapses as needed, always retaining interest on the incredible creative work this Norwegian/British team is responsible for.

Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects might be a hard name to swallow, but the presentation of their projects is elegant as it is simple. The entire background of the homepage doubles as a photo from one of their projects, while the rest of their site manages to keep identical navigation structure despite heavy style changes. The text feels minimal, and emphasis is very much on the photographs.

Parsley Studio uses a collection of simple images that fill a background to make it stand out, and these images function as a navigation system for their portfolio. Actually, if you try browsing their full portfolio, you’ll notice they don’t use any text whatsoever until hovered over.

qlear is a much darker site than many other minimalist sites featured here, but the display of content remains simple and inventive. Browsing through the portfolio is a seamless, smooth, intuitive process. The header doubles as a place to get to know the creator, Kevin Kalle.

ReinH is a personal blog/journal that hops right into the latest post. Aside from a faded background image, it’s a layout composed of only text, but the different shades create a distinguishable content hierarchy.

Tim Jarvis – A Base Reference contains very little text, as the primary content are the beautiful photos. The home page loads a different work everytime it’s loaded, each bringing it’s own mood to the entire site.

Tom Booth’s portfolio is divided until multicolored categories. Clicking a category expands it allowing the viewer to quickly navigate to a specific work.

Twistori is a unique concept that uses Twitter to display different emotions from around the web as they are posted. The navigation also acts as the means of separating posts. The page automatically updates, and there is even a screensaver that can be downloaded to use it on the go (For Mac OS X).

Jan Reichle uses the background of the site as a clever logo type. The site functions in a similar manner to a file structure on a PC or Mac, effectively showing what is available, and precisely where the user currently is.

Muller is formated to feel like a catalogue, and a catalogue it feels like. The block grid makes the content easy to parse, and the simple display of work communicates the work effectively.

Shaun Inman uses an animated flash background, but it all feels so simple and right. Outstanding grid work in play here. You may know Shaun from his work with Mint.

Vitor Lourenco puts on a wonderful display of what a perfect web interface may look like. Aside from working on Twitter, Vitor’s portfolio contains some impressive work.

John Pawson may be one of the most highly respected minimal designers of this day an age, with quite a portfolio under his belt. His site is clearly demonstrates his beliefs of trying to achieve simplicity in art.

Minimal WordPress Themes

If you’re a WordPress user, you may take interest in some of these themes with a minimalist aesthetic.

“Cardeo Minimal WordPress Theme” – This simple WordPress theme is split into 3 columns on a white background with hardly any noise. Images are given upmost prominence.

“Hemingway” – A dark, simple, and elegant WordPress theme split into several columns and rows. The entire layout is divided and organized by nothing more than blocks of text and simple lines.

“Just Lucid” – Not quite as elegant as Hemingway or Cardeo, Just Lucid does offer a wider post format for WordPress users that need the extra width, but want to keep things clean.

“Modicus” – Minimal with a hint of attitude is how I would describe Modicus. It has a few unique quirks to itself, but Modicus is definitely a theme worth experimenting with if you need a minimal layout. It’s fast, ad friendly, and includes an optional homepage.

“Minim” – Another theme by Upstart Blogger that feels a bit more clean. It’s lightweight giving it the speed advantage over other sites, and formatted to accept standard ad formats.

Minimal WordPress Themes elsewhere on the Web:

Slightly Unrelated, but You Might Also Like This

Creative Package Design

Again, websites certainly aren’t the only place minimalist ideas are put into practice (it could be argued that web design was minimalist trends last compared to most forms of design). Check out this incredible collection of well crafted products after you finish up here.


  1. Add point Subtract point
    Creative Web Design (2 Points) January 23, 2011 at 5:37 am

    KISS is the key to very successful minimal design

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    Phaeder (2 Points) August 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Hi David,
    it’s wonderful to see your collection here and a great affirmation for me to stay on track. i am from Germany but live in New Zealand and design minimal web sites here.
    Maybe consider adding one of my creations to your list?
    Thanks for the great tutorials

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    Graphiste (2 Points) August 13, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    Some great inspirations, thanks for the selection.

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    I’m sort of late to comment on this post, but there are some extra ordinary websites in this list. I love minimalism.

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    Web Design (2 Points) April 26, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    THanks for sharing !!!! :)

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    Here you’ll find more minimal CSS Designs:

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    Infographiste PAO (1 Point) February 5, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Thanks for sharing this great list, great design, very inspiring

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    Constantin (0 Points) February 4, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Good stuff, thank you for this.

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    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุด (1 Point) February 2, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    Excellent post. Thanks27

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    โหลดเพลงฟรี (2 Points) February 2, 2010 at 3:14 am

    Excellent post. Thanks20

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    ดาวน์โหลดเพลงฟรี (1 Point) February 1, 2010 at 4:58 am

    great i never seen before.45

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    เพลงใหม่ล่าสุด (1 Point) January 30, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    thanks for sharing. So mush

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    Chotrul Web Design (1 Point) December 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks for this collection … it’s always good to see minimalist web design … keep it simple stu*id!

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    matt weddington (1 Point) December 2, 2009 at 8:20 am

    brilliant designs

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    Minimal and don’t they look better for it instead of being rammed with stuff. Ahh but unfortunately the client is always right lol

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    Very nice designs, thank you so much! I particularly like Shaun Inman’s work with Mint.

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    Tom – New Evolution Designs (1 Point) September 4, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Great post! Big fan of minimalism!

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    Thanks for including my Minimal theme

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    Lucie-Kaas (1 Point) July 29, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    I cannot believe this will work!

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    Heather (1 Point) May 29, 2009 at 9:41 am

    I am a fan of minimalist work, my consulting company used to be called “White Space Design.”

    Great pieces of work!

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    ArtcoDesign (1 Point) May 19, 2009 at 6:35 am

    A good piece of inspiration in my mind now:)

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    Matt Clarke (1 Point) April 17, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Oh, almost forgot, top website by the way, much respect!!!!

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    Matt Clarke (1 Point) April 17, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Wow that is some beautiful work posted here, have had to bookmark for posterity! Matt.

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    Naveed Ahmad (1 Point) March 30, 2009 at 4:07 am

    man the way you presented them is more nicer then their works :P

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    RaiulBaztepo (1 Point) March 28, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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    nxious (1 Point) March 20, 2009 at 10:41 am

    thanks a lot for such a smart and well done theme

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    wirtsi (1 Point) March 4, 2009 at 6:29 am

    How about this one … they’ve even abandoned any colors :)


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  28. Add point Subtract point

    These are really beautiful, thanks for the inspiriation.

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    I like Mid-Mo Design’s minimalist wordpress theme. Infact I am using it in my blog with a few tweeks to allow for style switching.

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    Ahhh David,

    I’m currently in the process of redoing my portfolio site and this post is like a god send. And thanks to all others who have posted links to other sites!

    Good work as always xD

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    I love minimal design. It’s amazing how you can create something this beautiful with this few elements.

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  32. Add point Subtract point

    Really great list, thanks for sharing. I love minimalistic design.

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    Jad Graphics (1 Point) February 21, 2009 at 3:15 am

    Great list of websites. The only thing is that the photo treatment you did to the websites with that blur effect kind of got me dizzy.

    Keep up the good work.

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    Ashraf Ali (1 Point) February 20, 2009 at 1:43 pm

    I was just curious, how are you doing the lens-like effect for the websites? I mean in your screenshots with the fade.

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    nice themes. Sometimes simple is the better way to go. Very nice. thanks.

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    Attitude Graphic Design Portfolio (1 Point) February 18, 2009 at 6:16 am

    Love the post – “more is less” as they say!

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    mojitopl (1 Point) February 17, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    I’ve tried my site to be minimalistic… after some of these designs I have plenty of ideas to think of. Thanks for inspiration.

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    Federico Capoano (1 Point) February 17, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Nice article and examples, i would like to add a theme for Joomla to the themes list:

    It’s defined minimal by the designers, also if is not as good as those one for wordpress.

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  39. Add point Subtract point

    Great round up, I really love minimalist design

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    Bruno Abrantes (1 Point) February 17, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Awesome post, I really love minimalism as a trend and the sites you’re showcasing sure make me love it even more!

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  41. Add point Subtract point

    great post, as usual…
    for my blog I’ve used and customized the Upstart Blogger theme.
    check it out if:

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    JohnONolan (1 Point) February 17, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Awsome collection, thank you for taking the time to put all of this together!

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    Thanks. Very inspiring. I’m a minimalist afficionado myself ;)

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    Dan Denney (1 Point) February 16, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Thank you for putting this together. They are stunning…

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    Good to see some German designs in there :-)

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    Thanks so much for mentioning my wp theme!

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    Aaron Irizarry (1 Point) February 16, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Love the minimal list! great stuff.

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    I love it when people actually put together new lists like this. When I first saw the article I hoped that it wasn’t just another reprint – and you didn’t disappoint.

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    AthenaEmily (1 Point) February 16, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Very inspiring! Thanks!!

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    Submit Css is also a pretty useful place to look for minimalistic web design!! Just an fyi!

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    Patternhead (1 Point) February 16, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Great collection. MMinimalism rules :)

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    Awesome job, David. Very nice collection – I love minimalist designs!

    Keep up the great work!

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