The laws of simplicity
Design often recognises the beauty in simplicity, from clean, minimalist architecture to flat design and shadowless UI. There is a misconception that simplicity is easy compared to complexity, but there is great skill in making the complex accessible to everyone by thoughtful organisation and reduction.
Leonardo Da Vinci once said that Simplicity is the greatest sophistication. It’s very relevant today, but what makes it so powerful is to think that he said this in a time when the art and architecture was so intricate and complicated, a long time before simplicity was fashionable.
Simplicity can apply to everything, and it’s something we pay a premium for. Take the Ferrari Portofino for example. It’s a stunning, top of the market supercar with a price tag to match. You might be surprised to learn that it is actually made up of fewer parts than the everyday, affordable Fiat Punto. Every part on the Portofino though is perfect, it’s refined and made of the best possible materials. It has been researched and engineered to be the best it could possibly be - it’s the refinement that we pay for.
The same applies to almost anything, from cooking to fashion, and, most importantly, design!
Simplicity has become very fashionable in design. Logos used to look three-dimensional, complicated, and intricate. But you’ll have noticed that they’ve been evolving to become flatter, and simpler. This has been across all sectors, from budget to luxury brands.
Web design is another example. Compare the GoDaddy homepage from 2006 (below left), this is how the internet used to look just 10 years ago. It’s an onslaught of features and offers.
But it’s not like that anymore, GoDaddy are a lot bigger now than they were 10 years ago and below right is what their website looks like now.
Now we’re putting ourselves into the user’s shoes, we want to make their lives easier and make our services accessible to a wider audience. If you wanted a website in 2006 you had to really know what you’re doing. Now, any pet grooming parlour can setup their own website in minutes and you can see why.
John Meada, the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, is dedicated to linking design with technology. Through the software tools, web pages, and books he creates, he spreads his philosophy of simplicity. In his book ‘The Laws of Simplicity’ he looks at how to achieve simplicity — not just in design but in our lives, through the following rules and keys:
The Ten Laws of Simplicity
- REDUCE :: The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
- ORGANISE :: Organisation makes a system of many appear fewer.
- TIME :: Savings in time feel like simplicity.
- LEARN :: Knowledge makes everything simpler.
- DIFFERENCES :: Simplicity and complexity need each other.
- CONTEXT :: What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.
- EMOTION :: More emotions are better than less.
- TRUST :: In simplicity we trust.
- FAILURE :: Some things can never be made simple.
- THE ONE :: Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.
The Three Keys to Simplicity
- AWAY :: More appears like less by simply moving it far, far away.
- OPEN :: Openness simplifies complexity.
- POWER :: Use less, gain more.
You can download the full book for free:
The Laws of Simplicity by John Meada