Johannes Kepler noted, “Nature loves simplicity…” Water does indeed flow down the path of least resistance. Human beings are 98% water, so perhaps it stands to reason that we, too, would naturally seek simplicity.
We live in a seemingly complex, often confusing world. Simplicity offers order, understanding and a sense of control. Design – across it’s many disciplines – is the science of simplification.
Adolf Loos famously espoused, “Ornament is a crime.” Mies van der Rohe proclaimed, “Less is more.” Buckminster Fuller favored, “Doing more with less,” while Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design dictate, “Less is better”. Simplicity for simplicity’s sake isn’t the goal. Without design, less would just be less. Minimalism is not merely visual veneer.
Da Vinci declared, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Designing simplicity requires probing the core of complexity; doing away with the superfluous and inefficient; clarifying, organizing, optimizing; pruning the subject to its purest form to function effortlessly and beautifully, while drawing forth meaning, metaphor and character.
“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” ~ Hans Hofmann.
Minimalism is simple, that’s why it’s so hard. An awful lot of complex thinking goes into making something simple. Simple should not be mistaken for simplistic.
Consider this simple, six word story by Ernest Hemmingway: “For sale. Children’s shoes. Never worn.” That’s the story in its entirety, but it’s clearly not the whole story. Those six simple words send the imagination careening. So, too, does a simple set of six 2×4 LEGO bricks which can be configured into 915,103,765 unique combinations.
Flights of imaginative fancy take wing with the simplest of beginnings. Give a child a cardboard box to play in and watch what happens. Give a musician a simple three-chord progression and you could end up with anything from Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony to Richie Valens’ La Bamba to John Coltrane’s Lazy Bird to the Ramone’s Blitzkrieg Bop.
Things are rarely as complicated as they seem. Rubik’s Cube can always be solved within 25 turns, no matter how scrambled. The most prodigious prestidigitation is achieved with simple, subtle slight-of-hand. We often miss the obvious because we’re confused into over-thinking. Good design cuts through confusion, which is one reason why good design is good business.
Design Simplicity Into Your Brand
Life is complicated enough, consumers don’t need poorly designed products and services making it more difficult. Lexus’ GPS – a product whose purpose is to make life easier – is notoriously convoluted, yet Toyota engineers refuse to simplify the design because they maintain users are operating it incompetently.
Conversely, simply type in a search term on Google and in a fraction of a second their algorithms solve an equation of more than 500 million variables to rank more than 8 billion web pages. For the end user, Toyota complicates a simple task while Google simplifies one of monumental complexity.
Charles Mingus observed, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
Simplicity sells. With the launch of the first iPod Apple conveniently put “1000 songs in your pocket”, provided an elegant device on which to play them, and later, with the iTunes Store, an effortless system with which to preview and purchase them – each element, from product to process, meticulously designed for simplicity. As of October 2011, 300 million iPods have been sold worldwide with more than 10 billion songs downloaded from the iTunes Store.
Does your brand simplify or complicate? Does it consistently deliver on the promise that it makes? What needs do your products and services satisfy? How well do they work? How simple is it for consumers to get support when they don’t? How convenient is the customer experience within your retail space; the social media space; on the phone; on your web site?
Give consumers simplicity. Think in terms of what problems you solve rather than what features you offer. Simplify your message and the customer experience by designing from their perspective outward. Connect your solutions to their needs. Add excellence to the equation with beauty. Provide simplicity and people will naturally flow toward your brand.
“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.” ~ Plato