Yes, this piece might come across as another narrative that supports the “doing less with more” cliché – I wouldn’t fault you for that line of thinking – but, considering the century we’re in (one riddled with an abundance of information), it is important to keep talking about it.
A quick Google search of the phrase “less is more” yielded well over a billion results (short scale: 1,160,000,000 to be specific). Granted, some of the said results were irrelevant – one of them included the 2009 progressive rock album by Marillion. Great record by the way!
Sidestepping the obvious volume for a moment, the contextual meaning of those results – in my opinion - it means that people are still looking for easy ways to figure things out.
Tugging on this thread for a bit, let’s examine why there’s still a need for straightforwardness (considering the fact that technology is supposed to make our lives easier)? Also, of what relevance does this “demand” have on the way suppliers of simplicity conduct their business?
- Simplicity is evident in nature
Many scientists have maintained that Mother Nature has long offered the blueprint for doing more with less.
- Italian philosopher and mathematician, Galileo Galilei in his book - “Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences”, asserts this premise:
“Thus it is said that Nature does not multiply things unnecessarily; that she makes use of the easiest and simplest means for producing her effects; that she does nothing in vain, and the like.”
- The book “"Basic Writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas: God and the order of creation", Medieval theologian, Thomas Aquinas, also posits the same notion:
“…for we observe that Nature does not employ two instruments where one suffices.”
- Lastly, English physicist, Sir Isaac Newton's first rule in his book “The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy” offers a pithy rationale:
“…for Nature is pleased with simplicity, and affects not the pomp of superfluous causes.”
Seems like humans can’t escape simplicity even if we tried.
- Simplicity shows empathy
Another overused adage is anchored in this expression: “simplicity is the universal language” - determining the number of speakers and how well they speak this language is the basis for another post – but how then does this “language” elicit understanding?
The ability to distill an idea down to it’s purest form not only shows a high level of intelligence (you need a certain level of intellect to figure out what is/not useful), it also identifies a compassionate individual: one whose ability to re-sweat the details for an audience and spare them the torment of the unnecessary, is seen as a thoughtful gesture.
Debbie Millman, President Design Group at Sterling Brands (a leading U.S. brand consultancy firm), in her perceptive Creative Mornings speech, titled “The Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated College”, states that what makes Designers special is their ability to provide empathy in any particular situation, especially, in the context of communicating a specific message to a large number of people – “you need to comprehend how people perceive and understand things”.
- Simplicity is an empowering lifestyle
In describing their admirable journey to “a rich life with less stuff” on TEDxTalks, Joshua Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (co-owners of the cleverly named website called - The Minimalists) highlight tangible ways in which they were able to say no to materialism, and achieve a rewarding life with “less stuff, less clutter, less stress and debt, and discontent” by embracing the Minimalism lifestyle.
- “Simplicity sells”
Simplicity is a strong business advantage.
Businesses that create products and develop services that help consumers make sense of chaos, and also arm them with tools that value their time and attention, are raking in serious cash.
Brands like Nest, Zappos and of course Apple (no hyperlink needed) that have created aesthetically appealing products - without any technological complexity - and, have created an easy online experience, are beyond pleased with their financial bottom line.
Now the practical question – what are the tools for doing more with less?
“The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life” (click for free pdf) a book by John Maeda, Technologist and former MIT Professor, lists 10 tactical techniques for achieving and implementing simplicity.
I find these two laws the most compelling:
- Law 1: The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction
- Law 10: Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful
In conclusion, the next time you’re embarking on an endeavor, (be it developing a website, creating a new software platform, or even relaying the events of the day to a mate), take a deep breath and ask yourself this question:
“Is what I’m about to say or do the simplest it can be?”
Written by David Fastuca @Locomote