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On Design & Simplicity 27 April 2010

Posted by jannaq in Design.

In studying various templates from our WordPress workshop, I realized that primarily my personal tastes continuously drew me to designs that exemplified simplicity. As student in digital media, I have become well aware of the copious amounts of widgets and style options that can be displayed on a site. That being said, I have also become well aware of that though there are many design and function options out there, utilizing them all simply does not work. Simplicity can quite often mean sanity. The paradox therein lies that while we want to design with simplicity, we also crave the “extras” that complicate our design.

I recently reread the short book, “The Laws of Simplicty” by John Maeda and picked up some great tips that point towards a less chaotic approach to design.  The author is a professor in MIT’s Media Lab and a well known graphic designer. Maeda took achieving simplicity in the digital age to be a personal mission and the focus of his work at MIT. In his book, he explores the question of how we can redefine the notion of “improved” so that it doesn’t always mean something more, something added on. He outlines ten laws necessary for simplicity. The laws are as follows:

  1. Reduce: “The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.”
  2. Organize: “Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.”
  3. Time: “Savings in time feel like simplicity.”
  4. Learn: “Knowledge makes everything simpler.”
  5. Differences: “Simplicity and complexity need each other.”
  6. Context: “What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.”
  7. Emotion: “More emotions are better than less.”
  8. Trust: “In simplicity we trust.”
  9. Failure: “Some things can never be made simple.”
  10. The One: “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”

I highly recommend this book as great starting point to better understanding how to choose that “one thing” and do it well. In a digital world with many options, choosing only a few (if they’re the right few) can be very powerful.



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