Why is it that people often feel the need to over-complicate things? A great meal doesn’t always need a thousand ingredients. A beautiful song doesn’t always require a full symphony. And a memorable vacation doesn’t always require an exotic itinerary. So why do so many designers succumb to the temptation to fill their canvas with “stuff.”
Sometimes (and I would argue, most times) powerful experiences are derived from simple moments, and sometimes, the absence of things bring the most impact.
Isaac Newton said it best with his words, “Nature is pleased with simplicity. And nature is no dummy.” Here are a few other quotes from others.
“There is beauty is simplicity.”
“Simplicity is the source of beauty.”
Designing ANYTHING requires a healthy dose of restriction and discipline. It requires the designer to resist the temptation to over-fill the canvas. Consider the graphic designer who is tasked with developing an artistic rendering for a poster. A skilled graphic designer will approach the task by striking the right balance between used and unused space. Many people call it white space. Our eyes need a break when reading text and processing images. White space is the means by which a designer helps our eyes from becoming fatigued while inspecting a production.
Just as white space on a canvas, or the printed page, is calming, so likewise is empty space on shelves, open areas in rooms, and treeless portions of a yard. One of the great ironies of design is that usually the absence of “stuff” adds more to the viewer’s experience.
As obvious and universally-understood this principle is, it is astonishing how m any consumer product designers haven’t figured it out. A walk down the aisles of any store will bring you sensory overload as bombastic designs on labels scream “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME!” Obviously, companies want customers to “notice” their products. Yet, I argue that a better way to get customers to “notice” your products is to spend your money in creating AWESOME products not AWESOME labels. The company, Melaleuca, explicitly states this as one of their unique selling points. They invest in R&D rather than throw money at expensive, flashy advertising. Another company that has the PERFECT understanding of the power of design simplicity is Apple.
Today’s consumers are much savvier than consumers of the past. Because of digital technology, customers do most their shopping online, and if they have to go a store, they usually know what they want ahead of time. Gone are the days of casually walking the mall as a passive consumer. Today’s consumers are MUCH more intentional.