Marty Neumeier on “Seven Ways to Simplify Your Work”

NeumeierIn his latest book, The 46 Rules of Genius: An Innovator’s Guide to Creativity, Marty Neumeier observes, “Most people have a built-in bias toward addition instead of subtraction. For some reason, the concept of ‘more’ comes naturally to us. Yet the innovator knows that the value of any design doesn’t lie in how much is piled on, but how much is discarded. More is more, but less is better.”

This is what Albert Einstein had in mind when urging, “make everything as simple as possible but no simpler.”

Here are seven ways Neumeier is convinced (through trial and error) will help anyone simplify their work:

1. Test elements by removing them one by one. “See if subtracting an element will hurt the overall design. If it doesn’t, remove it.”

2. Discard needless features. “Build your design around one or two main features and keep the others secondary.”

3. Kill vampire elements. “Make sure none of the elements is contradicting a more important one, or drawing attention away from the main idea.”

4. Place elements in a logical sequence. “Put them in a line, a series, or a time-based sequence.”

5. Group items into buckets. “If the purpose of the design calls for the large number of elements, group them by use, meaning, size, or another organizing principles.”

6. Hide complexity behind a simple interface. “For example, the electrical grid is complicated, but a light switch makes it easy to use.”

7. Align elements behind a single purpose. “When all the elements support a simple purpose, the whole design will appear simple.”

“Works of genius are rarely complicated on the surface. You can describe their greatness in a single sentence, and even embellish them slightly without destroying their simplicity. Such is the power of subtraction. As you learn to simplify, you’ll discover that the best design tool is a long eraser with a pencil at one end.”

I also highly recommend Greg McKeown’s latest, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, published by Crown Business (2014).

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