The Art of Mastering Simplicity in Design

How do we make a design that is essentially simple?

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann

For a very long time, we have always been praising endlessly the art of simplicity. It is spoken of at length in every field, ranging from art to business. ‘Keeping it simple’ is an ideal way of doing things that is extremely difficult to master.

The idea of simplicity in design is quite simple. It is to eliminate any unnecessary element in your design. An unnecessary element could be defined as an extra button that serves no purpose, a lengthy explanation of something which can be easily achieved by writing a sentence or two, or a repetitive or redundant element. Thus, simplicity in design aims to create a seamless design that serves its purpose with no added complications.

While the idea of simplicity seems so easy, it is not so when it comes to practicality. Designing with simplicity requires a lot of thought and effort, a keen interest to understand what exactly the user is looking for and also a lot of research on every aspect of design.

Sometimes, the most simple changes in design can be brilliantly innovative. A recent example of this is the design change that the Uber app went through. Initially, the application had an interface wherein a red pin was used to find the location and fix on it. This required a user to fidget with the pin for a longer period of time and would also require them to use both hands. Uber did a little magic trick. It introduced a list of locations that are usually visited by the user, and put them within a small space that can be used easily with just one hand.

This change may seem small and simple. But this change in design buys more time for the user which is the aim of any ethical design thinker. It also reveals the depth of understanding that the design team has in terms of the preferences of the users.

How does simplicity help your brand?

  1. Stay longer in Memory

Some of the most memorable brand designs are quite simple. A simple white tick of Nike to Google’s easy colours, simplicity makes design easier to remember, thus makes your brand stand out.

2. Earn Trust

Most people want a hassle-free experience when using anything. The less complications a design has, the better the user experience. A clean and polished design naturally draws more people to the brand and thus, it helps build trust between the user and brand.

3. Time Management

A simple design helps to save time for users. This would, in turn, give a good brand image.

How to attain simplicity in design?

John Maeda has developed Laws of simplicity that lays down the various principles that can be followed to create a simple design.

  1. Thoughtful Reduction

A design can be made simple by deleting out any content that repeats or seems unnecessary. As Maeda says, “When in doubt, just remove. But be careful of what you remove”.

2. Organise

Anything organised is already satisfying for the brain. In order to cover complex topics, organisation is key. It helps to make it simpler and easier to comprehend. Thus, organise your ideas properly and implement it in design.

3. Save Time
A simple design always seeks to buy more time for the user.

4. Knowledge makes everything simpler
Knowledge gaining is central to create simplicity. Quite often, design seems to be complex when the designer themselves is confused about what they stand for. Thus, the more knowledge a designer gains, the better the design becomes.

5. Simplicity and Complexity need each other
While simplicity is praised so much, the existence of complexity should also be acknowledged. There needs to be a balance between the two to strike a chord with the user. Simplicity in design can only be highlighted by showing the examples of complexity.

6. What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral
Quite often, designers focus on one central point of design and forget about what is happening in the background. This can create chaos in design. Even when the design might be perfect in the middle, things may seem distracting in the sides. Thus, it is necessary to always see the design in a bigger picture and make changes accordingly.

7. More emotions are better than less.
Sometimes, simplicity can mean less emotions. This is why design needs to convey layers of meaning to speak different emotions. Thus, simplicity does not always mean everything in monochrome. Many layers can interact with each other and still be simple and convey better emotions.

8. In simplicity we trust
Simple design inevitably means more trust.

9. Some things can never be made simple
It is difficult to make everything simple. After all, some things are meant to be complicated. The right balance is what matters the most.

10. Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful
This law sums up everything about simplicity. Delete everything that is unnecessary. Add anything that is meaningful.

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