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Minimalist vs. Maximalist Packaging Designs

The Debate Between Design Styles


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” “To be or not to be.” “We go together like left and right.” The world is filled with opposing ideas, impossible to disentangle from each other. A popular modern design debate (and surely one you have had): is it better to go with a simple, minimalist design or a detailed, maximalist option instead?

Cut Through the Clutter with Minimalism

Many people’s association with minimalism is a design style that removes all the details. This could not be further from the truth: real minimalism is keeping only the details that matter. Minimalism feels modern. This is due to the use of clean lines, neutral colors, and simple textures instead of traditional or vintage styles.


The most popular example of minimalist design is Apple products—and for good reason. The company from Cupertino has made their products indispensable, in large part thanks to their design. Apple computers, tablets, smartphones, and other electronics are so iconic, the packaging requires little more than the name and an image of the item on the box. Now, many companies that fashion themselves as forward-thinkers (especially technology companies) are following Apple’s lead with simple packaging design.

The minimalist design evokes feelings of functionality and ease of use. Designers are letting the product speak for itself. An unconscious thought of many consumers is: “This product is so good, the company didn’t have to spend tons of time and money on advertising.” Ironically, this is often the opposite of the truth. Creating minimalist designs without making the empty space seem overpowering can be incredibly difficult to do.

Tell A Story with Maximalism

Maximalism is loud. Maximalism is in your face. Maximalism is filled with energy. The opposite of minimalism removing extraneous details, maximalism uses those details to tell a story. This may seem counterintuitive, but maximalism should never be crowded. There are many details and maybe a number of fonts and clashing color schemes, but with maximalist packaging design, the end result should never be confusing.

The maximalism trend was, in part, created as a reaction to minimalism so it can be difficult to address maximalism on its own. Maximalism can be used to create a sense of luxury, opulence, and tradition. Victorian-style houses loaded with couches, curios, paintings, tchotchkes and other ephemera are the original maximalism. In homes like those, each detail has its own story to tell. One item might be mismatched to another, but when seen as a sum rather than parts, a cohesive vibe is reached overall.

Jose Cuervo

Several years ago, Jose Cuervo teamed up with artist Ricardo Cavalo to create maximalist designs for their 222nd birthday. These designs are colorful, eye-catching, and, at times, overwhelming. Each of the bottles works with a myriad of details to convey the history of the Jose Cuervo brand and make a statement about where they sit today amongst other alcoholic beverages.

Is Minimalism or Maximalism for You?


Despite appearing to be polar opposites, the focus for both minimalism and maximalism is on the details. All packaging design needs to convey information (contents, expiration dates, instructions, etc.), but the amount of information needed can dictate what direction to choose for your project.

Fortunately, the work is often already done for you. By the time you’ve reached the packaging design stage it is likely you have already settled on a logo, color palettes, and more brand items. Is your logo an intricate, hand-drawn masterpiece that includes several colors? Maximalism is your friend. Is your main branding a bold wordmark? Minimalism is the correct path.


If you’re considering switching up your branding completely, it’s important to consider your target audience. Millennials (hipsters notwithstanding) are drawn to minimalist designs that cut through the digital noise they are bombarded with on a daily basis. You might be a huge Apple fan, but it is important to think about who is buying your products. Companies relying on their history to sell products should lean into the tradition supported by maximalism. Good packaging design will signal to potential customers it is a product they’re familiar with, but stands out from similar products. This can be a tough tightrope to walk, but the results are always worth the effort.


GCB Solutions has the packaging industry experience to help you through shifting trends. Whether you are beginning the design process or looking to make that final push to launch, we can help.

Call us at (904) 263-2804 or schedule a free consultation, today!


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