Simplicity Made Simple

May 31, 2007 § Leave a comment

John Maeda is remarkable. He is a designer, computer scientist,  and spokesperson for all things simple. He is the author of a wonderful little book called “The Laws of Simplicity.“  Why is it wonderful?  Why is he remarkable? Well, anyone who would in print (see p.89) accuse a rugby team (and I say this as a former member of the scrum) of relying too much on intellect is remarkable IMHO.

The book is wonderful because of the audacity and originality of the subject. Maeda takes an a priori concept, simplicity, and makes it the focal point of a structured meditation and analysis. We all know what simplicity is when we run across it.  We admire it when it informs design, and we expect it in our daily interactions with both life and technology, but how many of us have taken a pause to reflect on it? If for no other reason than to take some time out to marinate on the nature of simplicity, this book is a worthy read.

Personally, I am most excited about the role of context in the study of simplicity. Simplicity doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it needs complexity as a foil to have meaning. Exploring the tension between complexity and simplicity can often be the foundation of great design, elegant usability, or even an effective business model. In the book, Maeda keeps it simple, deliberately only scratching the surface on this and other aspects of simplicity, but in doing so he creates a framework for deeper analysis, and even argument.  The simplicity of the structure providing the mental space for exploring a not-so-simple subject.

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