Simplicity ain’t easy but somebody gotta do it. And MIT Professor John Maeda has taken a few steps to simplify simplicity for all us business, technology, and design-minded folks.
In his blog and now his book, Maeda shares his highly-evolved but ever-changing Laws of Simplicity. Each law is implicit in its simplicity as the book is a shade over 100 pages. But don’t let the book’s skimpiness detract you from thinking it’s too small to matter. Maeda purposely kept the book short to follow-through on Simplicity Law #4 which states that “…savings in time feel like simplicity.”
As Maeda notes in the book, “Simplicity and complexity need each other. The more complexity there is in the market, the more that something simpler stands out.” He continues by acknowledging the business benefits to ”…adopting a strategy of simplicity that will set your product apart.” Great stuff.
I found his First Law of Simplicity to be especially intriguing …
LAW #1: REDUCE
“The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.”
To help us thoughtfully reduce, Maeda introduces the SHE system. SHE stands for Shrink, Hide, and Embody.
By SHRINKING something, think Apple’s Nano, we automatically lower expectations about the ability of that something to deliver. It’s simple, the smaller the object, the lower our expectations. Thanks to technology, devices are getting smaller and smaller yet their ability to deliver gets greater and greater. Shrinking is a brilliant way to under-promise and over-deliver.
HIDING is another way simplicity is achieved. Maeda points to the clamshell design of cell phones as a prime example of how hiding complex features helps to simplify it. Open the clamshell phone and you can use it to make calls, stream videos, listen to music, text message, surf the Internet, etc. Hiding features like those allow people to discover the features they use on an as-needed basis. You only use what you need. You only know what you use.
EMBODYING simplifies complexity because the designer infuses the highest quality components and materials inside the object and allows for rich customer experiences to unfold one meaningful experience after the other. “Embodying an object with properties of real quality is the basis of the luxury goods industry and is rooted in their use of precious materials and exquisite craftsmanship.”
Throughout the book, Maeda gives us lots of nuggets to gnaw on. Each Law of Simplicity is worthy of our time to spend hours thinking about. You can begin gnawing on some of these nuggets by visiting www.lawsofsimplicity.com.
And yes, THE LAWS OF SIMPLICITY is a way worthy book.