As our world gets more complex, discussions about simplicity grow. Yet, ironically the issue of simplicity itself — what it is, how we attain it, etc. — is not at all simple. Or perhaps we should say it is not at all easy. Simplicity means many different things to many different people, and it seems difficult to ever get people to agree exactly what it is. Simplicity is elusive and words are often inadequate to illuminate its essence, yet most rational people agree that simplicity (how ever you define it) is a worthy goal so long as "it is not too simple." Like you, I'm very interested in simplicity. Yet, I still have little idea what exactly simplicity is. All I know is that it's something we — designers, educators, engineers, business people — need to spend more time studying, thinking about, and discussing. The problem today is not just that complex issues are made too simple, but rather that simple things are made unnecessarily complicated with layers of obfuscation and the superfluous. We're not there yet, but clarity and simplicity are the goal.
Las Vegas: an odd place to talk about simplicity?
A few weeks ago, I opened for the Synergy Conference at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Below is a recording of that 43-minute keynote presentation. There were about 3000 people or so in the audience. It was 8:30 am and part of my goal was really to get the crowd warmed up and ready for the presentations that followed, including the presentation by one of my business heroes Citrix CEO Mark Templeton.
I'm not sure what simplicity is yet, but I know that it's not easy to obtain and it's not something to be confused with simplistic (or "dumbed down" or "too simple" etc.). I think "simplistic" and "simplicity" are different things and come from a different place, a different approach. This is what I was trying to say at least with this crude visual below.
A couple of more slides:
Behind the scenes
If you ever wondered what it's like on stage the day before a large conference like this, you may enjoy this amateur video taken at rehearsal the day before. (Just two days before this same arena was the site of the Pacquiao v. Hatton boxing match.) I originally posted this video right after the event in May.
• Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren
• The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda
• Fast Company article on simplicity
• Nancy Duarte's blog post about this talk