Carl Barenbrug

Product design, creative direction

Deceptive Simplicity

All design should be simple for users to understand. However, simplicity in design is one of the most difficult things to do well—to find a balance between intuitive functionality and aesthetics. And yet ironically, design that appears effortless often takes far more work than something that appears complicated—more so in design thinking, than design doing.

“Simplicity is the key to excellence.”

—Dieter Rams

We naturally overcomplicate things we don’t understand. This is typically the root of over-engineered design. If it can’t be explained simply, it can’t be made simply. We often think adding things makes a thing better, but more often than not, it’s quite the opposite. Continually adding gives the impression of development, and in many cases that is accurate, but design that focuses on a product’s essence—without distraction—is always going to be better.

Yet, simplicity has a stigma attached to it. Often commented upon with “That looks like it was made in five minutes” or “I could have done that”—and maybe that’s true, but it’s easy to observe a finished product and overlook the skill involved in making it. Skill that has been learned, development, and shaped over many years of experience.

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