Saturday, September 18, 2010

Notes on John Maeda's Laws of Simplicity

Summary.  Simplify or create the perception of simplicity (which has the same effect).  Shrink and reduce by discarding the unnecessary.  Subtract the obvious.  Hide what can be hidden.  Organize, group, create a gestalt.  Add white space.   Speed, trust, knowledge, and openness feel like simplicity.  Design things that save to or feel like they save time.   Build trust and use that trust to learn more about the user and use the data to more directly satisfy the user's needs.  Openness simplifies complexity (open source, APIs) because customers have control.  Simplicity and and complexity need each other.  Simplicity cannot be perceived except in relation to complexity.

Reduction and hiding.  The motivation to simplify arises when you've created something that is too complex.  Questions to ask:

  • How simple can  you make it?  How simple does it need to be?
  • How complex does it really need to be?
Simplicity is desirable in relation to something complex.  When we make something that is perceived to be complex simple, we exceed expectations.

We can simplify by getting rid of something completely (IPod shuffle) or by hiding it (clamshell design on laptops and phones, hidden features in user interfaces).

If we hide, we need to plan for the unhiding---advertising a feature?

Organization. "Organization makes a system of many appear fewer."

Through organization techniques.  SLIP.  Write down on post-its, organize into piles, label the piles, prioritize.

As a presentation technique.  Grids, a basic and powerul means of organizing information. Key in graphic design.

Gestalt.  Our minds look for and perceive in terms of patterns or gestalts.  The German word for design is gestaltung.  Good designs cause us to perceive something as one, as unified.  For example, the IPod job dial integrates all controls (menu, back, forward, volume, etc) into a simple control.  Easy to use and perceived as one (we are interested in simplicity as perceived or experienced).

Groups are good, but too many groups are bad.

"The best designers in the world squint when they look at something.  They squint to see the forest from the trees-to find the right balance.  Squint at the world.  You will see more, by seeing less."

"Savings in time feel like simplicity".  

Knowledge makes everything simpler.

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