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Simplicity in Las Vegas

Simplicity 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.

Simplistic_v_simplicity

A couple of more slides:
Kimono   Elvis

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.

Links
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

Comments

Michael Sporer

Great presentation, Garr! I'll be watching that one again.

I used the beginner's mind in a presentation I did as board president of a disability organization. I did so to emphasize "possibility". Along with a simple graphic of a child and his dad floating a toy sailboat in the water, the beginners mind halped scope out the organizational mission. I also tried to use pictures to explain independent living. It was fun, and got the point across.

Carl Pullein

That was a great presentation Garr. Thanks for the inspiration

Jan Schultink

Garr, a question, how do you stay connected to 6,000 eyes?

Catherine

Absolutely - simple and simplistic are not the same thing at all. My dictionary defines simplistic as 'treating complex issues and problems as simpler than they are' - in other words, it's no compliment. It always amuses me to see designers and manufacturers advertise a product as 'simplistic' - why would you buy it?!

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