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37Signals on Fast Company on Simple

Jason nearly dislocates his shoulder patting himself on the back writing about Fast Company’s “The Beauty of Simplicity” cover story.

One of the things that Jason writes is, “The big guys have to force simple. The small guys are simple by default.” Which, of course, is not true. *Everyone* has to force simple. At Adaptive Path, we’ve worked with many less-than-10-person startups who could NOT be convinced to embrace simplicity.

And some big companies get simple by default. Apple, with the iPod and iTunes, is the obvious example. Google and their home page is another. (Though, Don Norman pointed out Google’s nudity in his insightful, The truth about Google’s so-called “simplicity”.)

If you want a truly valuable, and subtle, take on the Fast Company article, read John Maeda’s “The Subtlety of Simplicity.” He recognizes that less isn’t more… That what we’re striving is not simply the elimination of details and complexity, but the addition of meaning and elegance.

  1. My shoulder has been sore. Now I know why!

    “That what we’re striving is not simply the elimination of details and complexity, but the addition of meaning and elegance.”

    I wouldn’t disagree with that one bit. I actually prefer the word CLARITY because simplicity is often misunderstood for emptiness and the lack of details. The RIGHT details are the key, of course. And meaning is always important. It’s the reason to get clear. The clearer you are the more meaning you broadcast.

    And, for the record, I’ve believed in the “less is more” concept. Less is less. Less is more implies more is better (which it usually isn’t).

  2. Suggest part of simplicity also creating a simple value proposition that can be sold, designed, developed and scaled. Have seen a number of products that lose focus very quickly because they are trying to tweak a complex platform to create a market need, or dont know if the market need exists so create complex functions think these will sell or just does not make sense against simpler ways the task could be done manually or with a competing product … its a tough balance. I think people will continue to cry out for simplicity. *reaches for dim sum on a Sunday morning in Hong Kong*

  3. Hello Peter,

    Saw you at Webvisions 2005 in Portland, Oregon and was inspired by your presentation.

    I think it’s ironic that to print the Fast Company article “The Beauty of Simplicity,” the page requires the user to find the “Printable Page” link near the top of the article, or get to the end of the article and find the “Print this” link. Do both these links accomplish the same task? The user must ponder. Follow “Print this” link and we endure yet another loading of this page, which is not that fast!

    Why not simply have styles that permit the user to print on the article page and let CSS style the print version for you? I find the same issue on most newspaper sites, for example!

    Best regards,

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