What I have learnt about simplicity is the effort and hard work behind it. It takes so much work to make things simple. Simplicity attracts and most times especially in designs, it is elegant.
Think of the formula for average/mean. It is very simple. But the mean is used to compute all manner of complex mathematics and algorithms. But to get those complex models to work, you need the mean. Mountian of algorithms and computations are built on the mean. that simple average. Yes.
Clean lines, reductive, uncluttered, monochromatic, simplicity, “less is more” — these are some of the terms and concepts that immediately come to mind when thinking about simplicity and minimalistic designs. The work has been done to make it simple. Great teachers reduce big theorems and philosophies into relatable and familiar concepts.
Another example of simplicity is the way our phones are currently designed. Steve Jobs once said that the average person thinks of the phone as an inconvenience and he wanted to make the phone a useful and needed device that one wants to use. That is how the iPhone was born — which had both entertainment and communication tools. That sounded out of this world but he made it happen. By removing multiple buttons and the use of a smart screen, what he thought of was executed. A modern phone as at today is a simple block of material; light in weight but equipped and powered to entertain, compute and communicate.
When computers were made for only scientist and technology folks, it was hard to use. You needed to learn programming languages and then find machines that could decipher those languages before you would even bother. But along the line came folks who thought of embedding the programmes in the background and then what you need is only to “type” the commands using the keyboard. It sounded too good to be true. These folks powered by venture capital funds chased the idea because they figured out that if everyone could use a computer for their daily tasks, then a bigger market would exist for computers — personal computers, industrial computer etc. Afterwards, educational products followed and today the use of a computer or computer system can be likened to an epidemic. Let’s use a relatable term — pandemic. You get the drift.
Albert Einstein’s five levels of intellect, in ascending order: “smart, intelligent, brilliant, genius, simple.”
So think of it….what are you building? Has some thoughtfulness being plugged into making it simple for many to use? Think of an application as simple as Microsoft Word or Excel. Simple and straight forward but do you know that in the background are loads of stuff that backup that simplicity?
In politics, when the French Revolution had to be conducted, they had to break it down to everyone to catch what they were fighting for — “Egalite, Liberte and Fraternite” (Egality, Liberty and Fraternity). Very simple…guys we are fighting for an equal opportunity society (egalitarian), with affords us liberties and fraternity (brotherhood and sisterhood). It was that simple.
The civil rights movement, though active and alive was captured by the “I Have A Dream” speech of Martin Luther King Jr. He made it simple. He talked about how it will affect the lives of his kids. With such others could run with the mandate. It was simple and relatable. With that folks like Thurgood Marshall could take on cases that, we are not asking for anything else except what the constitution has promised…..all men were created equal and should be treated equal. QED.
Look at “Black Lives Matter”. It is a simple battle cry. Every one — opponents and proponents get it. BLM. #MeToo movement — simple….it happened to me too. So simplicity engenders action because people are able to get “the why” and decide what to do afterwards.
I have applied this to two areas of life — technology and social rights. You can extend it to other areas of life. Before we go I will leave you with some quotes on the genius of simplicity.
“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction” — E.F. Schumacher
“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify” — Henry David Thoreau
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication ”— Clare Boothe Luce
Makes me think of Schopenhauer’s quote: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.”
Thank you for attending my TED talk.