Minimalist vs. Useful

Design Heuristic: Aesthetic and minimalist design

Here we have a very sleek, minimalist design for a vizio tv:

However, we spent some time last week talking about affordances and the tradeoff between minimalism and information. The violations within this design make themselves known as soon as you misplace the remote or it dies, because the minimalist design includes no buttons anywhere on the front or edges of the tv. Where do you think the functionality is on the back, shown in the image below?

If you squint at the bottom right hand corner you’ll see the button shown in the image below:

Which after investigation is a power button, and when pressed for a longer period of time acts as an “input” button although somewhat inconsistently. There is absolutely no way to change the channel or volume; this is a terrible design.

A very simple solution would be to use buttons along the edges or even on the back of the TV in anticipation of a lost remote. They should have to follow certain user standards such as the conventional “+/-” for volume and perhaps upward and downward arrows (really, more like triangles) for channels.


In contrast, a product that exemplifies a proper tradeoff between information/usability and minimalist design is the Keurig.


The Keurig tells a first time user everything they need to know and not a word more. There is a clear power button, buttons with images of varying sized coffee mugs, and an “auto off” button. There is also a very minimal Visibility of System Status light for power, heating, and “add water.” This last part is momentarily confusing, but in a brief search the part of the keurig which can be removed and filled with water makes itself absolutely apparent. It is overall great design.

About the author: jimartter

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