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The Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda


When I’m trying to publish a research paper, write code, make an argument, or even write a blog post, keeping it simple is one of the best ways of making an impact, not to mention being understood. Yet, as I and no doubt all of you – have often discovered, the process of creating simplicity is anything but simple. In our mind, information is usually hopelessly jumbled up – and whats worse, that jumble makes perfect sense to us at that particular moment in time. Yet it’s clarity fades when other people are presented with the same data or indeed, we ourselves look at it after some time has passed (coders know what I’m talking about).

John Maeda does a very nice job in this (“simple”) 100-page book telling us what the elements of simplicity are, and along the way offers many inspirations of why achieving simplicity is worth our time, effort and thought. On first reading, some of the principles he espouses are actually quite obvious. It’s just that we never bother to apply these principles when we design anything.

Of course, the book is extremely relevant to anyone thinking of any kind of major design, be it publishing or product design. But I found his laws applicable in a very generic way as well, even to something all-encompassing as living life – we do so wish for a “simple” life, don’t we? And I’m pretty sure that something like the well-agreed on principles of something like software development can be derived more or less directly from his laws. I’d suggest multiple readings of the book – you tend to go through 100 pages in a flash, and to really appreciate it, you need to think about the things he says more than once. John Maeda maintains an interesting companion website at where he offers more insights into simplicity.

Rating: 4 / 5