“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” ― Steve Jobs
As the visionary and pioneer of the personal computer era, Steve Jobs said, it does take a lot of hard and complex work to try and make something simple. But why go all this length to create a simple design when you could have the best of new-age modern elements in your products?
There’s a very simple (pun intended) and rational answer to this question. It’s consumer preference.
It’s like William Morris, master of modern design, asserted that utility is as important as beauty. According to one of Dieter Rams’ principles, “good design is unobtrusive. Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the users self-expression.”
Anything that is designed to appear bold and scream “Look! I’m cool” is great for making a statement or grabbing eyeballs. However, something that is designed to look simpler is easy on the eyes and has maximum familiarity.
And why is familiarity important? It’s because the population at large like whatever makes them feel comfortable. A Simple Design is at the heart of ease, familiarity, and comfort.
For instance, it’s more appealing to wear basic clothing items from H&M or Zara, rather than some overly hip and bold clothing the likes of which something Ranveer Singh would wear.
From start to the finish line, when you design products, distinctive details play a big role in how the users or customers are going to perceive and interact with them. If it’s not a simple design and looks far off from whatever rest is there in the market, then it’s highly like that it can alienate some potential users and customers.
This very thing can stand between you, your audience, and your vision.
Some Benefits of Simple Design
Increase Brand Recognition
It’s been talked about a billion times already, but one more for the road; Why is the Nike swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches, or Disney’s mouse logo so iconic? When a design goes beyond bells and whistles and truly thinks of the vision and what a brand stands for, iconic ever-famous stuff is born.
A simple design means you can far more easily communicate information and messages than other players in the market. There’s no dilution and no leafing through complex symbols. No marathons just to decode 3 steps worth purpose or intention.
Simple design is honest and transparent.
Cognitive fluency refers to a subjective experience of ease or difficulty in completing a mental task. It’s pretty clear that people would more likely choose or think of the easier option among complicated ones.
The simple design helps create familiarity and a balance in cognitive fluency. All because the basic design is easier to consume for our brains.
Your famous TikTok trend may be short-lived, but if you want to create products and interactions that aim towards longevity and a chronicle, then you need to go with an elegant, timeless, and obviously simple design.
This is how some of the biggest brands out there are benefiting, by attaching memories and aspirations to their logo and design.
Logo and Icons
Less is more, right? One of the best areas to apply the power of simplicity is when designing logos and icons. Apple and Nike get this. And because they get this, they are who they are today.
Adding too many details to an icon is probably bad for that app or layout you’re designing. The goal should be to keep colors and elements to a minimum.
Okay, we’ve seen those infographics plenty. The ones that list all the numbers on a chart, add too much gradient and detailing. A for effort but F for the approach. The right way to do this should be to only think of essential labeling on your charts during data visualization.
Yes, it’s highly tempting and almost always difficult to avoid using a fancy typeface at the cost of simplicity. When it comes to font, people have usually said worse than ‘boring’ to Roboto. Poor Roboto doesn’t have a comeback to that.
Anyway, the best tip in terms of typeface when thinking of simple design is to keep the number of fonts to a minimum of three; four at max if it’s absolutely necessary. (And yes that includes different weights)
So simple design is what the world should strictly create and look like? Not exactly. The ultimate goal of a product is to solve a problem, as effectively as possible. As long as you keep making it happen, there’s no need to make the product stand out each and every time.
Keep in mind the audience you’re designing for, think of what they would like to see and experience. Most of the time it will be a simple design, and a bold, fancy, gumroad style otherwise. Stay in the loop. Create amazing designs. Change lives.