Keep It Simple, Stupid! 🤘🏻
Lovingly adopted by developers in the 70s, although it’s relevant to everyone today. So hop on the bandwagon.
Today, we’re being bombarded with information. Because we’re all trying to tell everyone everything. Yes, I’m pointing to social media, which is great for staying in touch, but I’m also pointing to every other thing that’s trying to communicate with us.
Many of these things we don’t even notice anymore. Our brain decided to just simply ignore them. But it’s tiring nevertheless. Perhaps that’s why minimalistic design has made it’s comeback. And perhaps that’s a good thing. This information overload makes us crave for a simpler life. A continuous increase of (reported) depression rates proves that.
As designers we respond to this demand of the users (some designers just follow this trend blindly). By keeping it simple we don’t distract the user with unnecessary information, but only that what’s absolutely necessary and relevant.
Form Follows Function
Based upon Form Follows Function (credits to Louis Henry Sullivan, 1856–1924) we don’t take aesthetics as a priority, but more as a sweet sauce to enhance the right experience. What’s right depends on the goal you’re trying to achieve.
Form Follows Function isn’t a template, it actually is the most variable thing around. Depending on your (don’t forget about your users’) needs, the outcome of this principle always varies.
“Perfection is achieved not when there’s nothing more to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away.”
But can we actually clarify this? Yes! Thanks to RT = a + b log₂ (n), DUHUH! Or simply said Hick’s Law. Which proclaims; ‘the time it takes to make a decision increases potentially to the number of complexity of choices’. Or even simpler, limit the user’s options to achieve their goals easier and quicker, resulting in less dropouts (taking Murphey’s law in accountance).
IQ has something to do with this, but even the smartest among us have a hard time making their choices when they can choose so many. This can be referred to our short term memory, which has a limited capacity and duration.
So in the end: less is more (a famous quotation of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1886–1969).
Minimalistic isn’t minimalism
These theories combined are the complete opposite of the original minimalism. Minimalism has been redefined by designers today, in which it’s often referred to Apple’s products. Which are not minimalistic at all. They are designed by the principles Form Follows Function and Hick’s Law. This is, most likely, why their products are admired by so many designers.
But why is minimalistic design such a trend? It’s because of contrast. As a designer you want to stand out of the crowd, trying to make a name for yourself. So often we overdo it, just to make a statement. Overdoing it isn’t simple at all, not for the creator, but most definitely not for the users.
More than appearance
KISS is not just for visual representations. It’s also good for the total concept of products and services. If you make the design as easy imaginable and the concept is too complicated, the design will represent this. KISS has to be applied to all layers to be really successful.
Like many master chefs advice: Keeping your menu limited will improve the quality of the few dishes you serve. And therefor your customer satisfaction will increase.
That KISS is applied successfully can be referred to Richard Williams (animation director at Disney), who stated in his book The Animator’s Survival Kit (2002) that animators mostly over-animate and urged them to use the KISS principle.
But what is simplicity? If it’s up to William of Ockham (philosopher, 1285–1347): ‘the simplest answer is usually correct’. Which is pretty generic, but I’m more convinced with Albert Einstein’s (theoretical physicist, 1879–1955) interpretation:
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”
Which draws a clear line between minimalism and simplicity.
Simplicity isn’t easy
As Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1529) mentioned: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Stating that it’s easy to add something to whatever you’re doing, but much harder to remove things, because we get attached to our complex ideas. And that’s why it’s so important to have empathy as a designer.
As a designer you can understand what the user wants and needs. As Steve Jobs stated: “Stay beginners.” Because only beginners can see the world clear, beginners question everything and more importantly beginners see everything for the first time.
But staying a beginner is much harder than you might think. Because we train our brains without noticing, just because we’re experienced with the things we do. And that’s where we have to train ourselves. Ignore everything we know and focus on the things your target group knows. Fulfill their expectations and needs and remove everything unnecessary. Keeping it simple as possible.
“I was made for loving you baby, you were made for loving me” — KISS
TL;DR Keep things as simple as possible, while empathising the expectations and needs of your users. 🤘🏻