Hate to be the grammar police but some distinctions must be made. “Minimalist” and “minimalistic” have the same root so people don’t think twice about using it interchangeably. “Aren’t they just two different forms of the same word?” Yes and no.
The former is a noun, the latter is an adjective, for sure. But they have different implications. “Minimalistic” can’t always be used where “minimalist” is, however they’re still thought to be synonymous.
They’re both pretty broad terms that encapsulate a number of different things. The only way we can get a coherent idea of what makes them differ is to unpack these boxes and see what comes inside being “minimalistic” and being “minimalist”.
Minimalist vs minimalistic
What is “Minimalist”?
“Minimalist” represents an aesthetic, a lifestyle, and a movement. It first surfaced circa 1960 as a visual art form. Since then, it has been adopted by other art forms and by opposers of consumerism. Minimalist can be used as a noun or an adjective. “Minimalist” is an umbrella-term that describes something that encompasses the “less is more” mindset.
A popular example (probably the first light bulb that goes off in our heads when we think “minimalist”) is the minimalist home aesthetic. The characteristics of minimalist interior design include little to no decor, color, or clutter.
Everything you see is there for a purpose so there are minimal distractions. Minimal decoration, minimal embellishment, very little going on. Simple, practical, and neat creates a very satisfying visual effect.
When applied to your lifestyle, “minimalist” is used to refer to a way of living where you reduce the quantity of your possessions down to what you need in order to live, or essentials (extreme minimalism is often referred to as essentialism).
Minimalists, practitioners of minimalism, go about their goals in a confident and focused way that is derived from their detachment to the material world. They freely let go of what isn’t adding to their lives and are constantly making room for improvement.
Another popular concept is minimalist fashion. Again, minimalist fashion is unassuming, crisp, and clean. Monochromatic articles of clothing that can be mixed and matched. No sparkles or graphics, big or intricate accessories, and little, if any, patterns.
“Minimalist” can also refer to a method of going about something that is straight-to-the-point, result-oriented, and removes all extra fluff from the process. A minimalist approach to finances might mean that you have a tight budget, financial goals set, and are aware of unhealthy spending habits.
A minimalist approach to good relationships lies in getting rid of relationships that are not watering you and cherishing those that do. That ensures that you always have love, support, and care around you.
We’re always wondering what could be sheared off to make us better and make our lives more successful.
You get it by now: the art of less can be applied to a lot of different things. People apply a minimalist mindset to their finances, parenting, cooking—wherever their lives could use some minimizing.
And minimizing is important not only to make room for ideas but to make room for you to grow. The concept of “minimalist” as it applies to things and people has a depth behind it that speaks of more than superfluous details.
“Minimalistic” doesn’t necessarily have to have anything to do with minimalism. Plus, it’s a lot more subjective. To refer to something as minimalistic is more of a statement of opinion than fact.
By referring to something as minimalistic you’re remarking on your perception of its composition and appearance. What you might consider minimalistic might not be what someone else would describe as minimalistic.
Broadly, minimalistic means “incorporating very little”. It describes something that has been whittled down to its basic elements. Minimalistic is something that lacks flair and utilizes only a few components.
You don’t have to be a minimalist for your skirt to be considered minimalistic. But if your skirt is minimalistic, it could be a sign that you’re a minimalist.
The fine line might still be a little blurry. The example below might help you understand a little better. Note what first comes to mind when you say these sentences to yourself.
- My minimalistic home.
- My minimalist home.
(1) This implies that your home is relatively unoccupied by things. There’s probably not much to see around–maybe because you don’t own very much, though the word “minimalistic” doesn’t directly imply that you don’t.
You might be commenting on the outward appearance of your house; it can be considered minimalistic if it’s monochromatic, and texture- or accent-less. Minimalistic-ness isn’t always intentional. Your home could be in a minimal state simply due to circumstance.
(2) This implies that your home has a theme of less. Unlike “minimalistic”, “minimalist” implies intentionality. Your sparse collection of essentials isn’t a product of circumstance.
We can assume that the little we do see around your home is functional. “Minimalist” speaks of an awareness of the state of the home. There’s nothing accidental about it.
What’s the big difference?
Unlike “minimalist”, “minimalistic” doesn’t imply any purpose and intentionality. For example, we’ll use an outfit. If someone describes their clothes as minimalistic, you can observe their spotless plain white t-shirt, their blue jeans, and solid black shoes, and form the opinion, “Yes, that is indeed a minimalistic outfit.”
If someone describes their clothes as minimalist, you can make a deeper assumption about the person and their values. It sends the signal that while your clothes do possess minimalistic characteristics, they are that way for a reason.
Maybe you want to contribute as little as possible to the pervasive amount of pollution produced by the fashion industry, or you’ve simply minimized your closet after decluttering. “Minimalist” expresses a particular idea that goes beyond a superficial remark on physical appearance.
It’s easy to intermingle the two if you’re not familiar with the implications of both. The denotations put them right next to each other, yet the connotations set them quite far apart. The most important thing you should note about the difference between the two is that “minimalist” describes an art style and way of life.
When someone talks “minimalist”, they’re talking about the philosophy of living with less and everything that comes with that. “Minimalistic”, on the other hand, is moreso an observation of the simplistic nature of something.
Minimalistic isn’t a genre or category. It doesn’t have a style of design, productivity, minimalistic jewelry, or clothes, in its honor.
If you have an adoration for minimalistic clothes and spaces you could be a potential minimalist. Minimalist living is intentional engagement in a minimalistic lifestyle, usually in order to unplug from consumerist norms and discover a deeper love of life.
If you’re going to indulge in simple pleasures, why not do it with a purpose and in a way that reduces waste production, living costs, and stress!
Look up some lists of popular minimalist documentaries and books (lists like the ones we have here) and, who knows, you could be walking into the most enlightening change you’ve ever decided to make.