46 rules of genius: An innovator’s guide to creativity part 2/4

By Marty Neumeier

Rule 11: Use beauty as a yardstick

If an idea isn’t beautiful it’s probably not innovative — defining beauty as a quality of wholeness or harmony that generates pleasure, meaning and satisfaction.

View beauty as a 3 interactive elements:

  • Surprise
  • Rightness
  • Elegance

Surprise is the jarring pop of disrupted expectations, the jolt of rule 10. The pleasure , meaning or satisfaction that follows this pop can be experienced as a warm glow , slowly spreading smile or the hair standing up on your arms.

Rightness is a kind of fitness for duty, a specific structure that allows the thing we’re encountering to align with the purpose.

Elegence is a rejection of superfluous elements in favor of simplicity and efficiency. Elegant idea is one that has the fewest number of elements that allow the whole to achieve its purpose.

The first eleven rules were concerned with getting the right idea and the next Fourteen are concerned with getting the idea right.

Rule 12: Design quickly, decide slowly

This is the work of bending, shaping and polishing your ideas so it aligns with its purpose, this is the point at which you go from thinker to maker.

Anything that can be changed can be designed. New ideas need protection and nurturing, they need time to be shaped, tested, corrected and polished.

Rule 13: Use linear process for static elements

Choosing a process is understanding what kind of system you’re dealing with. Is it complex or simple ?, Are the elements static and unchanging or dynamic and unpredictable?

For Example, Manufacturing gets its efficiencies from predictable steps. Some steps can be completed simultaneously, while others must be completed sequentially but all the steps involve static parts that can be assembled at the end.

A project as complex as a movie can be approached as a collection of simple parts. You can break the scenes into shots and camera moves.

You can feel confident that the scenes will make sense when they’re assembled into a finished product.

Rule 14: Use dynamic process for reactive elements

The traditional approach is to address a complex problem as if it were a simple problem, breaking it into discrete steps that can be executed one at time.

Too often the result was :

  • A solution that didn’t address the real problem
  • A solution that caused new problems, or
  • A solution that was largely ineffective.

A brand is a customers perception about a product, service or company. The task of brand-building is to give customers experiences that help them to perceive your product in a favorable way.

The experience you design for customers might include:

  • The product itself
  • A series of messages about the product
  • And a certain way the product is packaged, sold or delivered.

Let the various parts influence each other dynamically as they emerge from your mind or your pencil. Such Interactive elements that are mentioned above can change dynamically and with every change to the whole require an all-at-once process instead of a step-by-step process.

Rule 15: Work to an appropriate structure

Every design has its own order, if you’re developing a website , parameters may include your skill set, your audience, their experience level, the navigational possibilities, your brands personality and functional purpose of the website. Each project has a hidden structure and if discovered it can can bring out its full potential. When purpose and structure find the right fit, one plus one equals three.

Rule 16: Express related elements in a similar manner

The principle of grouping brings clarity to any design by signaling the purpose of each element.

Related elements should look alike and unreadable elements should look different. For example, the designer of a smartphone app can create a similar look for each of its functional icons, expressing that these functions are of the same type or have the same level of navigational importance.

The leader of an organization can direct the actions of employees by grouping their expectations into a long-term purpose, medium-term mission and a series of short-term goals.

Organizing, designing and leading all benefit from high degree of clarity. The way you group things can determine how they’re understood.

Rule 17: Match Form to Function, Function to Form

Form and function should be inseparable but form doesn’t always follow function. When the shape of something matches the intended purpose, the marriage seems inevitable, as if no other combination could exist.

This is the rightness component of beauty, the quality that sends clear signals of authenticity, integrity, honesty and wholeness.

Consider the intuitive gestures of a touchscreen interface that lets you scroll, swipe , click or rotate. These are examples of form and function in perfect alignment.

Rule 18: Don’t be boring

The most common killer of a great idea is dull execution. Boredom interfere with understanding — it lets the mind wander as it searches for something to care about.

The antidote to boredom, unsurprisingly is surprise. Surprise can take the form of drama, shock, wit or even extreme beauty — it can take form of contrast : dark vs light , big vs small, fast vs slow , simple vs complicated. It begins with a perceptual event — we notice something different which triggers an emotion, if the emotion is strong enough we store it as memory and design a meaning to it.

Example of creative surprise:

  • A punch line at the end of a joke
  • An invention that disrupts an industry
  • A fancy word in a plain sentence
  • A burst of sweetness in a savory dish.
  • An old product with a new feature
  • Surprise is your secret weapon. Use it strategically.

Rule 19: Put surprise where you want attention

The rule for surprise is this : direct the most attention to the most important part of your idea.

Don’t sprinkle surprise around randomly or the result will be scattered attention and a loss of focus.

You save your most compelling point for your most dramatic slide. You write a headline for an ad, you place the most powerful word at the end of the sentence.

Rule 20: Apply aesthetic deliberately

Aesthetics is a collection of tools used to create and appreciate beauty such as shape, rhythm, contrast, scale, colour and texture.

When you play with these toys , applying them to your project in various ways you will find they can bring clarity, excitement and nuance to your work.

Rule 21: Visualize with sketches, models or prototypes

When you move directly from knowing to doing something, you can easily find that your response is inadequate, off-target or wrong — but when you add the middle step of making, it changes not only what you know but what you’re likely to do. It’s the imagination-based step of creating a range of hypotheses that you can prototype, test and refine.

Make a sketch, construct a model or assemble a prototype with each attempt you’ll reveal new possibilities for innovation. The goal is to get the prototypes to talk back, surprise you and make you think in new ways.

Rule 22 : Embrace messiness

Each project needs a clean slate and each new project you’ll need extra time to switch mental gears but once the gears start turning and the project gets moving , the mess is part of the work.

Organizations that depend on innovation must embrace this reality. They should provide open, flowing spaces that accommodate clutter for extended periods of time while their people do battle in the creative dragon pit.

Rule 23: Test your ideas in realistic situations

If you want to predict whether an idea will survive in the real world, test it in the real world. The solution to this paradox is to expose ideas to the marketplace before they’re launched. You can do this by approximating real-world encounters using prototypes and a small number of test subjects.

Rule 24: Simplicity

The enemy of simplicity isn’t complexity but disorder and the enemy of complexity is also disorder. While complexity seeks order through addition, simplicity seeks it through subtraction.

In most designed products , what people respond to best is a rich , layered experience (complexity) combined with ease of use , understanding or ease of purchase (Simplicity).

The innovator should know that the value of any design doesn’t lie in how much is piled on but how much is subtracted. More is more but less is better because it concentrates on the essential aspects and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. It’s back to purity, back to simplicity.

Good design is as little design as possible.

Works of genius are rarely complicated on the surface, you can describe their greatness in a single sentence or even embellish them slightly without destroying their simplicity.

Simplicity, is the key note of all true elegance.

Rule 25: Learn how to learn

Learning to learn is a metaskill- a skill applied to itself. A skill multiples your knowledge and accelerates your progress. When you learn to be your own teacher , you can acquire any skill you put your mind to.

Teaching yourself is called auto-didacticism. You develop your own theory of learning, personal framework of learning for acquiring new knowledge.

End of part 2/4