From the past through the present, everything is changing. Focusing on the evolvement of design culture, there is no right or wrong approach between different design movements. The success of a style depends on how this design activity appropriately meets the need of a certain period. “Less is more” is a design style aiming towards minimalistic theory and the purity of aesthetic quality. This approach was a guideline during modernism yet challenged by postmodernism and is further redefined by contemporary interpretation. Today, this belief remains an unchanged value and continues to influence the simplified, rational, ecological and sustainable design.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the dramatic changes by industrialization had an immense impact on western social structure and a significant bearing on everyday life. Meanwhile, the Arts and Crafts Movement emphasized the quest for craft skills instead of mechanization in the modern industrial design culture. The principle of design stressed on the excessive ornamentation but overlooked the increasing costs in the market and what people’s needs are (Bengtsson 87). Under this historical background, Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the precursors of modern architecture in the Bauhaus, employed the aesthetic philosophy "less is more" to refuse the superfluous accouterments. He drew the irresistible attention in “De Stijl,” “constructivism,” and “dada” with their purified and simplified visual performance in order to emphasize the essence of things (Weber 425). He was inflexible with the determination of a structure that must resolve all problems. He ignored the problems of form, and he declared: “Form is not the aim of our work, but only the result. Form, by itself, does not exist (Weber 428).” His rational approach of extreme clarity and simplicity balanced every element and detail to meet visual and functional needs. It is difficult to imagine how he more minimally or more eloquently arranged a seat, chair back, or arms in a chair.
The urgent need of simplicity in World War II was forced by the privations of war. Demanding austerity in every facet of life raised functionality to a head (Heller and Fink 14). However, in the late seventies,an alternative theory, postmodernism was quickly spread into many areas of art. It exposed the principle of “less is more” was too much austerity to dull the essence of visual communications (Heller and Fink 20). And it criticized the minimalist design is cold and lifeless that causes design to be boring (Bergstrom 191). Although the extreme plainness and simplicity of the appearance design decreased the decoration and attraction, its essence of rationality, functionality, and economical practicality responded to the requirements of the recent society.Following the changing times, population continued to increase while resources began to decrease. “Less is more” has provided a new meaning that less squandering of natural resources is a more considerable choice of sustainability. It inspires the contemporary designers to be concerned with the environmental issues. The earth is not an inexhaustible supplier. We realize this is an imminent threat to our life. Consequently, people demand the production design complying with a standard about reduction of environment pollution, simplicity of product appearance, and increase in functional performance. To respect for natural elements, the creation of exquisite, and original objects were embraced since the Bauhaus era (Weber 446). For example, the decoration of packaging design is too luxurious and is an unnecessary waste because the value ornamental packaging will become a piece of scrap at the moment we open up the packaging. In china, the gift packaging designs of the Mid-Autumn Festival moon cake are applied by the exorbitant material such as: silk, gold plate, jade, and leather. From the external to the inner structure, magnificently ornamental