An Interview with Carl Barenbrug
Carl Barenbrug (@barenbrug) is the editor of minimalist magazine Minimalissimo. Learn more about the man behind the magazine and his design inspiration in this interview with Mark Gelband.
Interviewer Mark Gelband (@markgelband) is Ello’s Chief Marketing Officer, an expert in container home construction, a long-time writer, and a local everywhere he goes.
Mark: What in your creative development, your creative process and practice led you to appreciate Minimalism?
Carl: Although I have a background in design, I didn’t really start appreciating minimalism until I came across the work of Dieter Rams. He’s a design legend and I owe a lot to him and his design philosophy and principles. Obviously his greatest work was produced in the ’60s, but so much of it is timeless. That’s why his work is so inspiring and continues to influence the way so many of us think about design, whether that’s in product, furniture or even web design. So I essentially apply similar principles to whatever project I get involved in. Create something useful, focused & aesthetic. Then others might also appreciate it.
My enthusiasm for minimalism goes beyond design though. It’s an ideology that I try to apply to a lot of things in my life: my home space, my office setup, my wardrobe, the way I think about the environment and how I spend my time. It comes down to making room for the important things and making my life a little simpler and serene. The Minimalists guys, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus have been pretty influential to me too.
Mark: How did you come to be the editor of Minimalissimo?
Carl: I was initially writing a personal design blog, which was heavily influenced by minimalism. The previous editor of Minimalissimo (@maartenpkappert) appreciated my taste and what I was featuring, so in 2011 he asked if I wanted to be a contributing editor for Minimalissimo too. Of course I jumped at the chance to represent such a cool site, so once I was on board, my enthusiasm and passion for minimalist design blew up. Soon after, in 2012, I was asked to take over the site entirely. I haven’t looked back since and I’ve taken an awesome team of co-editors along with me to produce a solid digital and print magazine.
Mark: Minimalissimo has the following categories: Architecture, Fashion, Industrial Design, Art & Illustration, Furniture, Graphic Design, Package Design, Photography. What minimalist ideals tie these categories together and why?
Carl: These are categories that can be the most expressive when considering beautiful minimalism. The typical ideals tying these together are the number of colours, the number of materials, the form, and the photographic compositions. This is what I consider for the aesthetic direction of Minimalissimo. They’re also a reflection of my personal taste and my understanding of minimalism.
Mark: Would you name one designer in each of these categories that best exemplifies the category for you personally?
Carl: Such a tough decision, so personally, it would currently be:
Architecture: John Pawson
Fashion: Melitta Baumeister
Industrial Design: Oki Sato of Nendo
Art & Illustration: Richard Serra
Furniture Design: Hao Wai
Graphic Design: Alessandro Scarpellini (@aesse)
Package Design: Savvy Studio
Photography: Paul Jung
Mark: Give us three adjectives that define minimalism?
Carl: Essential, environmental, timeless.
Mark: Can a serif typeface be minimal? Which one might meet your criteria?
Carl: Seriffed type can’t really be minimal. The intention is to be distinctive, to add something more to a character beyond what is necessary purely for aesthetic reasons. Sure, a serif typeface can be minimal in comparison to another serif typeface, but certainly not by definition. That’s not to say they’re not beautiful. Some are gorgeous, like Neo Display and Skolar. Yet, if you consider how a typeface is applied to graphic or web design, it’s not so much about the character of the typefaces you use, but rather about how many different typefaces you use, and in the minimal variation of sizes and weights.
Mark: Black or white? Why?
Carl: Always both and for different reasons.
Black when it comes to fashion. It always works. It’s easy, chic and simple. I always loved Yohji Yamamoto’s quote on why he wears black: “Black is modest and arrogant at the same time. Black is lazy and easy - but mysterious. But above all black says this: ’I don’t bother you - don’t bother me.’”
White when it comes to an environment. Nothing is more beautiful than pure white architecture, which is probably why I find Santorini one of the most stunning islands in the world. It’s calming yet has so much vitality.
Mark: What are you hoping to achieve with your editorial vision for Minimalissimo?
Carl: Minimalissimo is already the leading magazine for minimalism in design, but there’s so much more I want to achieve with it. We’re working on our second printed issue - our insights edition - which will be available from October this year and might be featuring one or two of those designers I mentioned earlier. Although the site is a wonderful source of inspiration for creatively minded people, I’m looking to make improvements to it, introducing more opinion pieces and interviews online with designers and influencers. Hopefully adding a little more personality. That’s the focus, but I’m also looking into exclusive design collabs with certain brands. Creating minimalist products with Minimalissimo taste.
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