Leonardo Da Vinci

Take a Website Design Lesson from Leonardo Da Vinci

Five centuries later, simplicity is still the ultimate sophistication

3 min readNov 21, 2013


As a website design company, we are often faced with complicated requests that require simple solutions.

With those requests comes a real temptation to data-dump. In the past, the web designer’s solution was to create a labyrinth of links and pages throughout the client’s site. But for us, that is a no-no.

We keep it simple.

We want to make the user experience as crisp and intuitive as possible.

That’s why when we have the option to create a maze of hyperlinks—we stop. We pause, and we take a few lessons from someone you may not associate with the internet, Renaissance master Leonardo Da Vinci.

Da Vinci is famously quoted as saying, “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” And while that may be true, it can be tricky to grasp just how simple he really meant.

For some extra insight on this, one of our American team members visited a Da Vinci exhibit at the U.S. Space & Rocket Museum in Huntsville, Alabama, which has temporarily replaced its’ space exploration theme in an homage to the 15th century inventor, sculptor and painter.

Here are some of our observations from the exhibit:

  1. Simplicity results in interaction—All throughout the museum, visitors were interacting with Da Vinci’s creations, but the longest queues were at simple, wooden machines that used only one or two moving parts to achieve their goal: cogs, pulleys or bearings. The result is not unlike new web designs that encourage users to scroll or swipe their way around a single, manageable page.
  2. Use open space to reduce clutter— Da Vinci once reimagined Milan in a model “ideal city.” He took the crowded, single story cityscape and tiered it into three wider, more open levels using canals for commerce. He then fitted every building with ventilation ducts. The message? Give people space and they will feel welcome.
  3. Beauty is in the details— Despite being incredibly simple, Da Vinci’s work was still highly detailed. Visitors to your site may never notice the subtle nuances of your typography or the extra 27 pixels between your body and the footer—just like they may never notice the small bridge and stream behind the Mona Lisa’s left shoulder. But those small details add to the piece in a big way.

Now, those are some great lessons; but you’re probably still wondering what a Renaissance exhibit is doing at a rocket science museum. And therein lies the final lesson: NASA credits Da Vinci’s machines with laying the ground-work for space exploration.

So in a very real way—simplicity took us to the Moon.

And if simplicity can take mankind to the Moon, what can it do for your company?

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