John Maeda is a graphic designer and computer scientist. His book, The Laws of Simplicity, proposes ten laws for simplifying complex systems in business and life. The book presents laws that the author has created for simplifying our life, and the things we may work on, or design.

Technology has made our lives more full, yet at the same time we’ve become uncomfortably “full.” – John Maeda

Law 1: REDUCE

The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.

When in doubt, just remove. But be careful of what you remove.

Reduction by the SHE Method: Shrink

Simplicity is about the unexpected pleasure derived from what is likely to be insignificant and would otherwise go unnoticed.

Fragility is an essential counteracting force to complexity because it can instill pity— which by coincidence also occurs in the word SIMPLICITY!

Reduction by the SHE Method: HIDE

When all features that can be removed have been, and a product has been made slim, light, and thin, it’s time for the second method: HIDE the complexity through brute-force methods.

Hiding complexity through ingenious mechanical doors or tiny display screens is an overt form of deception. If deceit feels less like malevolence, more like magic, then hidden complexities become more of a treat than a nuisance.

Reduction by the SHE Method: Embody

EMBODY-ing quality is primarily a business decision, more than one of design or technology. The quality can be actual, as embodied by better materials and craftsmanship; or the quality can be perceived, as portrayed in a thoughtful marketing campaign.

Exactly where to invest— real or believed quality— to get maximum return is a question with no single definitive answer.

Law 2: ORGANIZE

Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.

To do it:

  • SORT: Write down on small post-it notes each datum to be SLIP-ped. Move them around on a flat surface to find the natural groupings.
  • LABEL: Each group deserves a relevant name. If a name cannot be decided upon, an arbitrary code can be assigned such as a letter, number, or color.
  • INTEGRATE: Whenever possible, integrate groups that appear significantly like each other.
  • PRIORITIZE: Finally, collect the highest priority items into a single set to ensure that they receive the most attention.

Law 3: TIME

Shrinking the time of a process can sometimes only go so far, and so an alternative means to “saving” time is to hide its passage by simply removing time displays from the environment.

Law 4: LEARN

Knowledge makes everything simpler. Learning occurs best when there is a desire to attain specific knowledge.

To teach:

  • BASICS are the beginning.
  • REPEAT yourself often.
  • AVOID creating desperation.
  • INSPIRE with examples.
  • NEVER forget to repeat yourself.
  • REPEAT-ting yourself can be embarrassing, especially if you are self-conscious.
  • AVOID-ing desperation is something to target where learning is concerned.
  • INSPIRATION is the ultimate catalyst for learning: internal motivation trumps external reward.

Law 5: DIFFERENCES

Simplicity and complexity need each other.

Understand the duality in the world around you.

Law 6: CONTEXT

What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.

This law emphasizes the importance of what might become lost during the design process. That which appears to be of immediate relevance may not be nearly as important compared to everything else around. Our goal is to achieve a kind of enlightened shallowness.

The Paradox of Lost and Found

The opportunity lost by increasing the amount of blank space is gained back with enhanced attention on what remains.

There is an important tradeoff between being completely lost in the unknown and completely found in the familiar. Too familiar can have the positive aspect of making complete sense, which to some can seem boring; too unknown can have the negative connotations of danger, which to some can seem a thrill.

Law 7: EMOTION

Our society, systems, and artefacts require active engagement in care, attention, and feeling— the business value may not be immediately apparent. But the fulfilment from living a meaningful life is the ROE (Return on Emotion).

A certain kind of more is always better than less— more care, more love, and more meaningful actions. I don’t think I need to say anything more really. More emotions are better than less.

Law 8: TRUST

  • In simplicity we trust.
  • The goal of LEAN BACK is to achieve relaxation as the desired state.
  • Overconfidence is usually the enemy of greatness, and there’s little room for personal ego when pleasing a customer is the true priority.
  • The more a system knows about you, the less you have to think. Conversely, the more you know about the system, the greater control you can exact.

Law 9: FAILURE

  • Some things can never be made simple.
  • There’s always an ROF (Return on Failure) when you try to simplify— which is to learn from your mistakes.
  • Deeming something as complex or simple requires a frame of reference.

Law 10: THE ONE

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.

  • Key 1: AWAY More appears like less by simply moving it far, far away.
  • Key 2: OPEN Openness simplifies complexity.
  • Key 3: POWER Use less, gain more.

LIFE – Technology and life only become complex if you let it be so.

The 10 Laws: Recap

  • REDUCE – The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
  • ORGANIZE – Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.
  • TIME – Savings in time feel like simplicity.
  • LEARN – Knowledge makes everything simpler.
  • DIFFERENCES – Simplicity and complexity need each other.
  • CONTEXT – What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.
  • EMOTION – More emotions are better than less.
  • TRUST – In simplicity we trust.
  • FAILURE – Some things can never be made simple.
  • THE ONE – Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.

Remember, “Technology and life only become complex if you let it be so.” – John Maeda

From the book:-
The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

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