The Duality of Simple Design
– Dan Bendt, primate design studio
“It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”. – Antoine de Saint Exupéry
The more I contemplate the concept of simplicity, the more I love and despise it. Don’t we all strive to create something remarkable? Something extraordinary? Extra-ordinary. Yet good design proves that its not what we put in, but what we can take away without affecting its overall purpose. The pursuit of creating something both extraordinary and simple at the same time continues to challenge and inspire me.
Oftentimes I find myself almost hindered by this concept. When piecing together initial design concepts, prototypes, and ideas, I am constantly worried—Is this absolutely necessary? Does this really serve the overall purpose? You’d think we designers would be excited that we can technically do less physical work and still achieve a simple effective design.
Recently, I’ve been working on logo for a music project, Observers and Telescopes. My initial concept was to incorporate infinity symbols, math equations, wireframe 3D shapes, stars, etc., into the logo. So I fire up Illustrator and away I go.
Throughout the entire process, I could hear my own voice in my head clearly, “keep it simple, keep it simple, keep it simple.” After taking a step back from the keyboard, I come to realize this “infinity logo masterpiece” I’ve been pouring over the last several hours looks awful lot like a ribbon bowtie. You know, the kind Colonel Sanders from KFC wears. Talk about missing the mark by a mile.
To counteract this internal conflict, I’ve since reverted back to the more experimental approach when producing initial designs. Just letting ideas come and go and preventing myself from becoming attached to anything initially. I’ve made a point to start experimenting with new techniques and tools more often as well. This new approach seems to quell the simplicity vs. extraordinary conflict for me. Or perhaps now I’m just more concerned with the process to worry about simplicity.
As professional designers, we’re expected to present a finished piece to our clients and confidently say, “Here is your new identity.” Finding that elusive process which allows you to reach that point of supreme confidence is what we’re all aiming for. And perhaps it is in that process in which the balance of simplicity and details may be found.