Pixelated Skull

3/4/12 – RMIT University

While I was searching for books at RMIT in Melbourne, a young man walked past who was wearing a very interesting t-shirt. I was unable to take or find a photo so I decided to create a rough sketch of the design. The skull featured very simplistic shapes and a composition of multicoloured squares, which provided the image with a pixelated effect. I was immediately drawn to the different colours and squares, which created a basic outline of the skull.

The design may relate to Minimalism and I began to question whether the image of the skull in the contemporary culture is becoming simplified or minimal. I am beginning to recognise that there are a lot of t-shirt designs that feature a basic or simplistic representation of the skull.

Carl Andre, Twenty-fifth Steel Cardinal, 1974

Minimalism: Art & Design

Hartmut Obendorf questions the notion of ‘simplicity’ in design and the form of ‘reduction’. Obendorf argues that these two particular elements provide an apprehension for ‘Minimalism’, which has influenced many art forms or artistic formats.

Obendorf also suggests that designers must find an accurate proportion or the right balance in regards to simplicity and reduction in order to minimise ineffective results. The text also exemplifies four different categories of Minimalism, which focus upon the context and the practicality of a particular product. Obendorf quotes that the four different categories are “functional, compositional, structural and architectural” p.7

Apple is used as an example and the ‘Ipod’, which is also associated with Minimalism. Apple allows consumers to undertake various activities or achieve different tasks, through minimal or simplistic designs / products. From a personal perspective the Apple products have become extremely popular because they have achieved an accurate proportion between ‘functionality’ and product design in terms of simplicity.

Obendorf also analyzes Modern Art and the transition to the ‘Postmodern’, which is emphasised through another text. According to the author’s citation, Minimalism originated at the very end of the Modernist movement before the beginning of Postmodernism.

Minimalism is also used to interpret different artistic formats such at art, film or music. Obendorf explains that Minimalism was introduced through painting, which was then applied to a three dimensional format, such as sculpture that primarily focused upon “colour, material and structure”. p.23

Werner Feiersinger, Exhibition, 2008


In relation to the text, there are various images or representations of the skull, which feature simplistic or reduced elements. It could be argued that the reproduction of the skull relies upon the composition of shape and colour in order to replicate a simplistic outline or form that is identifiable to the consumer.

These particular theories also questions whether the simplistic image of the skull also simplifies the meaning of death? One could argue that the minimal shape or design withdraws the consumer further away from the concept of death. Has the skull become another element of design? does the minimal or simplistic design of the skull have a completely different meaning / association?

Hartmut, Obendorf. Minimalism: Designing Simplicity.  New York: Springer, 2009 p.3-24

Image Citations:

Pichaus, http://pichaus.com/+minimal+sculpture/

False Dawn, Blog, http://falsedawn.blogspot.com.au/2003_06_01_archive.html

Apple Website, http://www.apple.com/au/ipodshuffle/

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