John Maeda's Laws of Simplicity

2 Sep 2006 - 2:44pm
7 years ago
6 replies
1749 reads
Dave Malouf
2005

http://weblogs.media.mit.edu/SIMPLICITY/
John Maeda's blog on Simplicity ... but more is being done at his book
blog at http://lawsofsimplicity.com/

Oh! I came across all this reading a silly article in Wired. the article
isn't online yet, but they ask John to apply his laws to a new Sony DV
Cam. It is interesting when applied like that.

Here are the Laws: http://lawsofsimplicity.com/?cat=5&order=ASC
Reduce
Organize
Time
Learn
Differences
Context
Emotions
Trust
Failure
The One

Most don't speak for themselves but the descriptions are too long for a
simple e-mail (hmmm? length?)

He says there are 3 more, but I can't find them.

What do people think?

-- dave

--

David (Heller) Malouf
Vice President
dave(at)ixda(dot)org
http://ixda.org/
http://synapticburn.com/

AIM: bolinhanyc // Y!: dave_ux //
MSN: hippiefunk(at)hotmail.com // Gtalk: dave.ixd(at)gmail.com

Comments

3 Sep 2006 - 4:43am
Bruce Esrig
2006

We also need a model of how to apply simplicity rules to design.

My favorite model:
- simple underneath
- necessary complexity in a mediation layer
- simple on top

For example, I'd like the world to put IDs on everything for disambiguation.
That would go on the "underneath" layer.

Then there's all this hubbub about how hard it is to solicit IDs from
users, or assign IDs, or track IDs.
That goes on the mediation layer.

Then there's the user effect: the environment can offer unambiguous choices
when those are available, or ask for disambiguation when necessary. (Can do
that without IDs!) And the user can pick an item and be confident of
getting it back the next time. (Can do that without IDs sometimes.) And
different parts of the environment can present the same item without any
other mediation. (Can't do that without IDs.)

Seems to me as though the user effect is that ambiguity is under control,
which is simpler than if it isn't. So in my perception, IDs underneath
yield simplicity on top, near the user.

Bruce Esrig

At 03:44 PM 9/2/2006, Dave (Heller) Malouf wrote:
>[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
>http://weblogs.media.mit.edu/SIMPLICITY/
>book blog at http://lawsofsimplicity.com/
>Here are the Laws: http://lawsofsimplicity.com/?cat=5&order=ASC
>...
>Learn
>...
>
>What do people think?
>
>-- dave
>
>David (Heller) Malouf

3 Sep 2006 - 1:03pm
Challis Hodge
2003

> http://weblogs.media.mit.edu/SIMPLICITY/
> John Maeda's blog on Simplicity ... but more is being done at
> his book
> blog at http://lawsofsimplicity.com/
>
> Oh! I came across all this reading a silly article in Wired.
> the article
> isn't online yet, but they ask John to apply his laws to a
> new Sony DV
> Cam. It is interesting when applied like that.

There's some good stuff in there. Nothing profound or even new that I could
see and there certainly is no useful organization to his thoughts. Turning
these rules into something actionable for problem solving, design, etc.
would be a great way to focus the effort. My $.02

-challis

3 Sep 2006 - 4:51pm
jbellis
2005

Dave,
There's nothing incorrect about his laws, but usability folks ranting for simplicity is like politicians promising lower taxes as the solution to all the world's problems. I'm tired of both.

None of us, myself included, would argue that between two interface solutions to the same design challenge, the simpler one is better. The same holds for writing, engineering, code, you name it. But that is not the issue. Complexity, even when we have to learn detailed interfaces to access it, is the source of all of our technological pleasures. I'll bore you with only one example, cell phones. Complain all you want if you feel the interface to your phone is flawed... to me, I have incredible power in my hand. And to do this, my phone has not the 12 push buttons that sufficed for phones of the 80's but 28 buttons, some of which can be pressed multiple ways. Maeda almost makes my point in his fifth law, which to me relegates his theme to mere marketing.

Simplicity is not a path to solving usability problems. Completing the code is. Automating multi-step processes is. Fault tolerance is. Explicitness, accuracy, and precision are. And increasing the learnability at the same rate that we add features most assuredly is.

www.jackBellis.com,
www.UsabilityInstitute.com
www.WorkAtHomeWednesday.com
www.SelfishMoralism.com

http://weblogs.media.mit.edu/SIMPLICITY/
John Maeda's blog on Simplicity ... but more is being done at his book
blog at http://lawsofsimplicity.com/
Oh! I came across all this reading a silly article in Wired. the article
Here are the Laws: http://lawsofsimplicity.com/?cat=5&order=ASC

What do people think?

-- dave

3 Sep 2006 - 4:58pm
Robert Hoekman, Jr.
2005

Well, first, they're not really "laws", right? They're guidelines
disguised as laws, as we've seen in recent threads. :)

Second, it's a nice list, but nothing really actionable (as Challis
pointed out). My new book goes into a lot of things like this, with
regard to app design, but also contains practical advice about how to
achieve these qualities.

Still, it's a nice, quick reference list to keep in one's head, so it
was probably worth the effort. Newer designers could certainly benefit
from it.

-r-

On 9/2/06, Dave (Heller) Malouf <dave at ixda.org> wrote:
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
> http://weblogs.media.mit.edu/SIMPLICITY/
> John Maeda's blog on Simplicity ... but more is being done at his book
> blog at http://lawsofsimplicity.com/
>
> Oh! I came across all this reading a silly article in Wired. the article
> isn't online yet, but they ask John to apply his laws to a new Sony DV
> Cam. It is interesting when applied like that.
>
> Here are the Laws: http://lawsofsimplicity.com/?cat=5&order=ASC
> Reduce
> Organize
> Time
> Learn
> Differences
> Context
> Emotions
> Trust
> Failure
> The One
>
> Most don't speak for themselves but the descriptions are too long for a
> simple e-mail (hmmm? length?)
>
> He says there are 3 more, but I can't find them.
>
> What do people think?
>
> -- dave
>
>
> --
>
> David (Heller) Malouf
> Vice President
> dave(at)ixda(dot)org
> http://ixda.org/
> http://synapticburn.com/
>
> AIM: bolinhanyc // Y!: dave_ux //
> MSN: hippiefunk(at)hotmail.com // Gtalk: dave.ixd(at)gmail.com
>
>
> ________________________________________________________________
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4 Sep 2006 - 9:18am
Juhan Sonin
2003

Read the 99 page book over a long lunch or two.

Give the book to design colleagues and interns... and to
non-designers and senior management.

Maeda's mantra is spot on.

The Laws of Simplicity and The Wealth of Networks (Y. Benkler) are
two must-reads.

-Juhan
--
Juhan Sonin
http://www.mit.edu/~juhan

4 Sep 2006 - 2:20pm
Rob Tannen
2006

Juhan - I respectfully and strongly disagree with your favorable recommendation of Maeda's "The Laws of Simplicity". While there is inherent value in many of the principles that he advocates, the book itself is neither simple nor readable.

Maeda's writing style, overuse of acronyms and lack of concrete, actionable advice makes it read more like a monologue (which I guess it is). Perhaps my expectations going into the book were off, but its certainly not, as a back-cover reviewer wrote, a "clear and incisive guide for making simplicity the paramount feature of our products".

I'd recommend "Universal Principles of Design" as a more thoughtful and useful counterpoint.

Here's a brief review that I wrote to evidence my points:

http://humanfactors.typepad.com/idsa/2006/09/the_laws_of_sim.html

________________________________

From: discuss-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com on behalf of Juhan Sonin
Sent: Mon 9/4/2006 10:18
To: discuss at ixda.org
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] John Maeda's Laws of Simplicity

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

Read the 99 page book over a long lunch or two.

Give the book to design colleagues and interns... and to
non-designers and senior management.

Maeda's mantra is spot on.

The Laws of Simplicity and The Wealth of Networks (Y. Benkler) are
two must-reads.

-Juhan
--
Juhan Sonin
http://www.mit.edu/~juhan
________________________________________________________________
Welcome to the Interaction Design Association (IxDA)!
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