The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life)
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Finally, we are learning that simplicity equals sanity. We're rebelling against technology that's too complicated, DVD players with too many menus, and software accompanied by 75-megabyte "read me" manuals. The iPod's clean gadgetry has made simplicity hip. But sometimes we find ourselves caught up in the simplicity paradox: we want something that's simple and easy to use, but also does all the complex things we might ever want it to do. In The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda offers ten laws for balancing simplicity and complexity in business, technology, and design -- guidelines for needing less and actually getting more.
Maeda -- a professor in MIT's Media Lab and a world-renowned graphic designer -- explores the question of how we can redefine the notion of "improved" so that it doesn't always mean something more, something added on.
Maeda's first law of simplicity is "Reduce." It's not necessarily beneficial to add technology features just because we can. And the features that we do have must be organized (Law 2) in a sensible hierarchy so users aren't distracted by features and functions they don't need. But simplicity is not less just for the sake of less. Skip ahead to Law 9: "Failure: Accept the fact that some things can never be made simple." Maeda's concise guide to simplicity in the digital age shows us how this idea can be a cornerstone of organizations and their products -- how it can drive both business and technology. We can learn to simplify without sacrificing comfort and meaning, and we can achieve the balance described in Law 10. This law, which Maeda calls "The One," tells us: "Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful."
“I,” and “T”—the letters by which my university is known—occur in natural sequence in the word simplicity. In fact, the same can be said of the word complexity. Given that the “T” in M-I-T stands for “technology”—which is the very source of much of our feeling overwhelmed today—I felt doubly responsible that someone at MIT should take a lead in correcting the situation. In 2004, I started the MIT SIMPLICITY Consortium at the Media Lab, comprised of roughly ten corporate partners that include
invented a way whereby she would turn her body around to let her legs down first, and successful navigation became possible. When she began to walk, she attempted to go down the step with her not-yet-perfected walking process. She of course fell. I tried to show her that if she went down on all fours, she could use her previously devised method for navigating the obstacle safely. Unexpected to me, she refused to do so and wanted to walk down the step like everyone else. The reward, in this case,
immediately nearby a temple. Could this be a sacred burial ground? I stood for many minutes contemplating the meaning of the emptiness, slipping into the same calm trance I had experienced in the adjacent Zen-style rock garden. A priest approached the mysterious rectangular zone, and waved to a car entering the temple grounds. The rope was untied and the car slipped into the space to receive its annual blessing to ward against accident and injuries. It reminded me that you don’t have to be a Zen
magic of cordless systems such as mobile phones, laptops, and so forth is freeing, yet there is a toll exacted with each new device acquired. I know that if I do not feed each device with energy regularly, batteries begin to discharge and their e≈cacy will eventually fade. I own an iPod but I never really listen to music anymore as usually I like to listen to the sounds around me. It sits on my desk and I may turn it on once every few weeks only to realize its battery is discharged. With the odd,
Today, the clamshell design is the most evolved example of hiding functionality until you really need it. All but5 LAW 1 / REDUCE tons are sandwiched between the speaker and microphone such that when it is closed it is a simple bar of soap. Many recent designs have gone beyond the clamshell, and employ slide-away or flip-out mechanisms. Such evolutions are driven by a market that demands innovation and is willing to pay for clever ways to hide complexity. But there might be no better example