Ever since I heard Einstein’s saying that, “All things should be made as simple as possible but no simpler”, I have sought, espoused and taught a philosophy of simplicity. I used Mike Wise’s dictum to make your restorative work recoverable when doing clinical work and applied the same thought to all systems. Now Dr John Maeda has helped me take my thinking to a different level.
Coming in at exactly 100 pages this little book can be read in an evening or (as in my case) a couple of short flights. The advice to “Keep It Simple, Stupid” or the KISS principle is often given but seldom taken Dr Maeda’s book will help you to keep clarity in things.
He spells out in brief chapters his 10 laws for balancing simplicity and complexity in business, technology and design and thus in life itself. The irony is that simplicity is, itself, a highly complex subject so needs a great mind to explain it.
Made is a professor in MIT’s Media Lab and a world-renowned graphic designer and he explores the question of how we can redefine the notion of “improved” so that it doesn’t always mean something more.
His laws are:
Law 1 Reduce – The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
Law 2 Organise – Organisation makes a system of many appear fewer.
Law 3 Time – Savings intake feels like simplicity.
Law 4 Learn – Knowledge makes everything simpler.
Law 5 Differences – Simplicity and complexity need each other.
Law 6 Context – What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.
Law 7 Emotion – More emotions are better than less.
Law 8 Trust – In simplicity we trust.
Law 9 Failure – Some things can never be made simple.
Law 10 The One – Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.
His Keys are
Key 1 Away – More appears less by simply moving it far away.
Key 2 Open – Openness implies simplicity.
Key 3 Power – Use less, gain more.
Just because something can be made complicated does not mean that it should be. His first example of a DVD player recorder is a good one; how many of us have despaired of it taking a pair of glasses and also the manual to have to do the most basic of functions?
The elegance of this approach is one of the basic foundations of the outlook that has made Apple the success that it has been. Less is not less just for its own sake.
A lovely little book that should make you re-evaluate everything that you do.
Available from The Book Depository.