The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, LifeDesign, Technology, Business, Life

The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, LifeDesign, Technology, Business, Life

Finally, we are learning that simplicity equals sanity. We’re rebelling against technology that’s too complicated, DVD players with too many menus, and software accompanied by 75-megabyte “read me” manuals. The iPod’s clean gadgetry has made simplicity hip. But sometimes we find ourselves caught up in the simplicity paradox: we want something that’s simple and easy to use, but also does all the complex things we might ever want it to do. In The Laws of Simplicity, John Maeda offers ten laws for balancing simplicity and complexity in business, technology, and design – guidelines for needing less and actually getting more. Maeda – a professor in MIT’s Media Lab and a world-renowned graphic designer – explores the question of how we can redefine the notion of “improved” so that it doesn’t always mean something more, something added on. Maeda’s first law of simplicity is reduce. It’s not necessarily beneficial to add technology features just because we can. And the features that we do have must be organized (Law 2) in a sensible hierarchy so users aren’t distracted by features and functions they don’t need. But simplicity is not less just for the sake of less. Skip ahead to Law 9: “failure: Some things can never be made simple.” Maeda’s concise guide to simplicity in the digital age shows us how this idea can be a cornerstone of organizations and their products – how it can drive both business and technology. We can learn to simplify without sacrificing comfort and meaning, and we can achieve the balance described in Law 10. This law, which Maeda calls “the one,” tells us: “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.”


  • Listening Length: 2 hoursand44 minutes
  • Program Type: Audiobook
  • Version: Unabridged
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Release Date: February 10, 2012
  • Whispersync for Voice: Ready
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0077PC45K
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  1. I had an opportunity to hear John Maeda speak recently. Here are a few things John said that I really like: “Humans want ‘more’ (food, storage, stuff). So ‘more’ is an important marketing concept. But while humans want more, design is about less. Yahoo design is about more. Google design is about less.”

    I ordered “The Laws of Simplicity” even before his speech was done. It is a short book and I read it in one sitting this weekend. II really enjoyed it. My favorite is Law ten: “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.”

    I am not a designer. Instead I write and speak about marketing. While John writes about simplicity as it relates to design, I am convinced that the same things apply to marketing and PR. For example, marketers love to use big gobbledygook words when they write – things like “mission critical” and “next generation”. But simplicity of language is what sells. So I am recommending Laws of Simplicity for marketers too.

  2. This book is about this astonishing author! The author is a fantastic parent whose kid sends him all caps “I LOVE YOU” email, is an incredible teacher who teach the brightest of the world, yet still manage to remains amazingly humble (he says that he has at time learned from his students: can you can possibly believe that such as genius could ever learn anything?). The author does not lose an occasion to mention in passing that he met so-and-so celebrities. He enjoys expensive restaurant and the most expensive toys.
    What else do you need to know about the Great Author?
    Oh, what was the title of the book again? Oh yes, simplicity. The title of the chapters is just about the only interesting content there is in the book about the subject. All the rest of the books is trite and superficial and unwarranted self-agrandisment by an insecure author. Even his further reading list, shows how superficial the author is.
    The only ray of sunshine here is that I was able to return it for a full refund.
    Nevertheless, the impostor has succeeded in robbing me of precious time.

  3. I want my money back. When I buy a book called THE LAWS OF SIMPLICITY, written by a university professor I expect more than this! John Maeda simply does not deliver.
    The first two laws I could appreciate. Even though they are not new, they deserve a place. But from then on it’s disappointing. “3: Savings in time feel like simplicity”. Well, duh. “5: Simplicity and complexity need each other” Shameless!
    And then there are statements that are simply wrong, e.g. “Simple objects are easier and less expensive to produce” (page 62). That’s obviously not true in general.
    I had hoped that this book contained some universal laws about simplicity, applicable to e.g. life in general and software applications in particular. No such luck.
    I am grateful to the reviewer who recommended “Universal Principles of Design.” That book was (and is) very helpful in my profession.

  4. This book was okay as far as it went, which was not very far. The “laws” are adequate and valid – except for law #7, which I found incomprehensible. However, the commentary on the laws was light and superficial rather than deep and provocative. I wish he had discussed when simplicity amounts to a profound achievement and when it is simply simple. I wish he had gone beyond objects to also discuss language and ideas being simple or complex. I wish he had explored when simplicity pleases us and when it becomes rather useless and uninteresting. For example, poetry and advertising succeed most when they are simple on the surface but with many layers of meaning.

  5. This book contains little depth of content and instead is filled with the author’s trite, personal approach to daily life. If you want some feel good light reading without any challenge, maybe you’d enjoy this. If you’re at all interested in content, get a Donald Norman book.

  6. I agree the core messge : Make it simple!
    I remember Einstein as well : not more simpler, meaning do not sacrifice the core.
    I remind that it is required a smart effort to make sth simpler, but it is easy to make sth complex.
    It is a repetition with nice acronyms for me, not very productive experience of learning.

  7. Simplicity is a broad concept and can mean many different things. John Maeda is especially interested in simplicity in design, particularly design in everyday life. (Many of his examples involve the relative simplicity in the design of electronic equipment, such as I-pods and smart phones.) He does make some interesting observations, but upon reading each chapter of the book I found myself thinking, “I could have figured this one out myself.” (Or, in some cases, “I already knew that.”) In a word, there’s nothing really profound about what he is saying.

    He’s also quite fond of acronyms, presumably as mnemonic devices to help us remember certain principles. For example, in Chapter One he introduces SHE, which stands for “Shrink, Hide, and Embody.” The problem with his acronyms is twofold. First, they aren’t memorable, and I kept having to remind myself what they meant. Second, they tend to be a bit of a stretch and at times to stand in the way of what it is he is trying to say. (Another acronym is SLIP: Sort, Label, Integrate, Prioritize.)

    This book contains some useful information for those who haven’t thought much about the idea of simplicity. However, as I already indicated, there’s little in this book that one can’t figure out on one’s own.

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