Making the complex simple
Designers master simplexity
Designers master simplexity
Should we, designers, consider ourselves “geniuses”? That may perhaps be a bit of an overstatement. But as designers, we deal with a lot of data, information, processes, and juggle many balls in the air at the same time. And in the end, it is our job to solve our clients’ complex problems in a simple way so that everyone can understand and use the solution. Also, we need to ensure an attractive finishing so that users feel enticed to buy and use the product or service.
Simple doesn't mean brief or vague. It’s more about being meaningful and relevant, without making things unnecessarily complicated. In the Bufdir project (a public digital mediation service for divorcing parents), my colleagues did this very well. They took an awkward and uncomfortable mediation situation and transformed it into a secure, digital, illustrated guide for each contact point so that parents and children would have a better experience. Divorce is complicated, and when it comes, nobody knows what to do or where to go. Hence, the goal of the project was to solve the problem in a simple way and to make it as easy as possible on the people involved.
Designing is like handicraft. When you have been working on an art project for a week, you have a table full of things - different materials, documentation, paints, brushes, cloths, sketches, papers, etc. Then, when the project is finished, you need to clean up and organise the mess. When we start a new design project, it's precisely the same. You have a lot of information, data, requirements, documentation, guidelines, problems, budgets, strategies, and expectations from the client and the company. And this is not the end of the project, it’s merely the start. Later we need to process all this information - “clean the table” - simplify and understand every side of the story. To do this, we use what we call simplexity. We take only the necessary, give priority to meaningful things, and make sure to document everything in an accessible language. It's quite simple; you need to focus on the user instead of yourself and remember that simplicity leads to focus. And focus produces clarity of purpose, which makes things happen.
We, designers, are not perfect, and that’s why we need to approach each project with care and respect. We must remember the responsibility we have in our hands to collaborate for a better future. To do that, we sketch, evaluate, re-evaluate, interview, design, write, take pictures for documentation, present the first prototype, and do it all over again. Learn in the process and continue. All during a limited amount time, and usually with a long list of requirements.
So, perhaps there is some truth to Einstein’s saying:
The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple.Albert Einstein
Simplexity requires some dedicated thought and a lot of insight and planning. Just like when it comes to writing short and concise text, it is often more difficult designing a simple solution than designing a complex and intricate one.
It's not always easy to boil down complexity to something simple, but as designers, it is our responsibility to ensure that the solutions we create are easy to understand and to use. After all, our clients’ brands and their customers depend on it. So, designer, smile - you’re a bit of a genius! ;)