The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

By Nic Price on 23 February 2007 — 1 min read

Every now and then I read something that seems to coincide with my life so perfectly I imagine there must be an Amélie-like character who has placed it in my path.

This is certainly true of John Maeda’s book The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life).

Maeda is a world-renowned graphic designer, visual artist and computer scientist at the MIT Media Lab.

At work we have a big simplicity theme going on at the moment which I’m closely involved in. The book is the perfect reference for this work.

On a personal note I found it covers themes which are incredibly important to me in the way I work and think as a technologist, designer and facilitator and also in my non-work life.

There are ten laws. If you’re really pushed for time the tenth law “The One” summarises them all:

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.

The book is deliberately 100 pages long. Just knowing that when you’re reading it is reassuring and offers a feeling of simplicity in itself.

I must admit I enjoyed the book so much I broke the third law immediately by taking my time to ponder the content.

There’s a great explanation of how the iPod became more complex before it became simpler, like so many other things in life!

Maeda also covers Gestalt, one of my favourite subjects, and how it helps when designing and understanding design.

If you don’t want to buy the book, much of the information in the book is available on Maeda’s Laws of Simplicity blog, though I find the fact that the book packages the ideas and is itself simply designed means it works much better for me.

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  • Does he have anything to say about raising children? Chaotic, irrational and energetic children? I long for simplicity. Sometimes I long to subtract the obvious (two small wild people) and adding the meaningful (perhaps the sunday papers and some good coffee) – just for an hour or two on a weekend morning………..

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