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The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology,…

The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life (2006)

by John Maeda

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7402119,983 (3.51)1
Ten laws of simplicity for business, technology, and design that teach us how to need less but get more. Finally, we are learning that simplicity equals sanity. We're rebelling against technology that's too complicated, DVD players with too many menus, and software accompanied by 75-megabyte "read me" manuals. The iPod's clean gadgetry has made simplicity hip. But sometimes we find ourselves caught up in the simplicity paradox: we want something that's simple and easy to use, but also does all the complex things we might ever want it to do. In The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda offers ten laws for balancing simplicity and complexity in business, technology, and design--guidelines for needing less and actually getting more. Maeda--a professor in MIT's Media Lab and a world-renowned graphic designer--explores the question of how we can redefine the notion of "improved" so that it doesn't always mean something more, something added on. Maeda's first law of simplicity is "Reduce." It's not necessarily beneficial to add technology features just because we can. And the features that we do have must be organized (Law 2) in a sensible hierarchy so users aren't distracted by features and functions they don't need. But simplicity is not less just for the sake of less. Skip ahead to Law 9: "Failure: Accept the fact that some things can never be made simple." Maeda's concise guide to simplicity in the digital age shows us how this idea can be a cornerstone of organizations and their products--how it can drive both business and technology. We can learn to simplify without sacrificing comfort and meaning, and we can achieve the balance described in Law 10. This law, which Maeda calls "The One," tells us: "Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful."… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 18 (next | show all)
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. ( )
  joshuagomez | May 31, 2019 |
There's nothing but good things one can say about the concept of this book. Redefine the world of complexity by cutting it down to the essence of what matters. Give meaning and passion to technology by simplifying their purpose. And when the complexity cannot be reduced, admit failure (and succeed in a way).

The book was full of acronyms which elude me at the time of this writing, but a bunch of sort of catchy terms which you can apply to your own design thinking process to apply simplicity. The style of this book would probably follow the pattern of John's other books (I've only read one other book by this author), so fits into 100 pages, easy read, and has pictures and diagrams where it helps explain the concepts.

The most interesting moments in this book were about the work the author did to get a consortium working together (called Simplicity Consortium). While it was mentioned only briefly in the book, and mentioned the corporations involved + MIT, there is no public record of the organization that can be found on today's 2013 Internet. I was hoping there was a group or organization that has arisen from these ideas that one could follow up with.

The book ends abruptly, and my take away of Simplicity (in it's application to technology) is to explore how to reduce. What can be taken away, what doesn't it do, what is it missing that won't be missed. ( )
  dkords | Nov 30, 2013 |
Interesting, but it seemed disorganized somehow. ( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
The 100 pages book itself is meticulously designed, the ten laws of simplicity aptly presented, Maeda, an MIT professor, argues that the issue of simplicity versus complexity affects every realm of our life, especially with our encounter with technological tools. As a librarian, I would like to contextualise some of Madea's concepts for metadata, especially the 10th law of simplicity where he talks about "subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful" from which he identifies a key principle, i.e., "more appears like less by simply moving it far, far away". For me the notion of metadata simplicity in the library domain is so conflated that it seems as if having fewer metadata fields is construed as metadata simplicity. ( )
  getaneha | Jan 16, 2012 |
The topic of simplicity is certainly important and not well enough understood among designers and design theorists. Maeda’s approach is to identify ten laws of simplicity and three key concepts, and to devote a short essay to each. Some of his ideas are interesting and evocative, whereas others unfortunately seem more half-baked. My general impression was a bit like reading a blog, where the mixed level and the self-referential style are to be expected and endured, and not so much like reading a scholarly book. However, if the book can help initiating a wider discussion of simplicity and the complexity of simplicity in design, then it will have served the interaction design community well after all.
1 vote jonas.lowgren | Mar 22, 2011 |
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