Picture of author.
23+ Works 1,390 Members 27 Reviews 1 Favorited

About the Author

John Maeda is Sony Career Development Professor of Media Arts and Sciences and Director of the Aesthetics and Computation Group at the M.I.T. Media Lab.

Includes the name: John Maeda

Image credit: Robert Scoble

Works by John Maeda

Associated Works

Processing: A Programming Handbook for Visual Designers and Artists (2007) — Foreword, some editions — 353 copies
A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader (2018) — Contributor — 223 copies
The Education of a Design Entrepreneur (2002) — Interviewee — 24 copies


Common Knowledge



I found this book oddly annoying. It’s quite small and I think I was hoping for something neater and more meditative. I found it conceptually quite cluttered, more in tune with a business audience than artists. A lot of it speaks to product design, I guess I was hoping for something about thinking, or art, or creativity. Hope leads to disappointment, I suppose. I’d love to see Maeda come back to this book and rewrite it, to see what he thinks now.
timjmansfield | 22 other reviews | Oct 15, 2022 |
This short (100 page) book gives 10 laws and 3 key properties for designing simple systems. Maeda provides a hand summary of the laws and key principles:

Ten laws:

1. Reduce: The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
2. Organize: Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.
3. Time: Savings in time feel like simplicity.
4. Learn: Knowledge makes everything simpler.
5. Differences: Simplicity and complexity need each other.
6. Context: What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.
7. Emotion: More emotions are better than less.
8. Trust: In simplicity we trust.
9. Failure: Some things can never be made simple.
10. The One: Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.

Three key principles:

1. Away: More appears like less simply by moving it far, far away.
2. Open: Openness simplifies complexity.
3. Power: Use less, gain more.

I fail to see the difference between the laws and principles (maybe Maeda just didn't want 13 laws ;), but other than that, these feel like a good set of principles to keep in mind when designing. They capture many common design dilemmas. For example, systems are often designed for expert and novice users. The "Learn" principle can be used to frame this dilemma. A novice user has no knowledge about your system; an expert user has that knowledge. The system should provide necessary knowledge to the user while not getting in the way of the expert. By reducing the knowledge needed (law 1), possibly by relying on knowledge the user already has (law 4) this dual nature may be achievable. There may still be problems because some complexity is inherent in trying to cater to two user groups (law 9).

The Laws of Simplicity rings true. It is consistent with what I have read of Don Norman's work and with a good deal of what I remember from Jef Raskin's book The Humane Interface. It is also consistent with what I learned in HCI and my own experience.

One nitpick: the book tried to hard to push the associated website. Once at the end would have been enough. I can forgive it that quirk since it was, in general quite spiffy (and shiny, literally; the cover had pretty shiny bits).
… (more)
eri_kars | 22 other reviews | Jul 10, 2022 |
I myself experience creativity like a storm, and was interested to see how far she could take the metaphor. Not very far, but that's okay. I enjoyed reading this book with it's jolts of inspiration here and there.
jasoncomely | Dec 3, 2019 |
This book is pretty short, yet the author filled it with several informal ramblings, which means the amount of good content in the book is pretty small. I expected something a little more professional or academic from an MIT professor. This book is just a rough and loose outpouring of unrefined ideas, which the author admits to in his introduction. I'm not a fan of books written with blog-style prose and quality. However, because he stated that it was his purpose to put out some rough ideas I am willing to give it 3 stars instead of 2.

I would recommend this to people interested in design. It is by no means authoritative or ground-breaking, but it is a very quick read (1 day) and does have a few nuggets of food for thought that make it worthwhile.
… (more)
joshuagomez | 22 other reviews | May 31, 2019 |


You May Also Like


Also by
½ 3.7

Charts & Graphs