By Tobias van Schneider Published December 14, 2018
In all the work I do, I strive for the most simple solution. I mean, the name of my businessliterally translates to “simple.” But simplicity is ironically one of the most difficult things to do well. Usually, the more effortless something appears, the more effort it took.
Throughout my relatively short career, I’ve found these ingredients to be key for simplicity. Some of them more difficult to attain than others.
A deep understanding of the subject
We naturally overcomplicate things we don’t understand. Usually, if I can’t explain the problem easily to someone, I’m not going to find an easy solution. So first, I do my research and try to become an expert on the subject.
I learn the ins and outs of the business or challenge, ask every question I can think of (even the ones that may seem dumb) and try to wrap my mind around it. Sometimes this means I have to read additional books on a topic, watch a documentary or go to some industry-specific events.
Once I know I can verbally explain it to someone else in a simple way, I’m ready to find a simple solution.
This is less about an attitude and more about trusting your gut. We often land on a simple idea somewhere along the way but we don’t trust it. We think surely, it can’t be this easy. Sometimes, it is.
A maxim you’ve already heard, but worth repeating: creativity needs constraints. A brief that says “do whatever you want” is a curse. Most of our brains need to work within some kind of lines or we spiral out of control. Setting boundaries also forces you to keep things simple. It strips out the unnecessary and focuses your mind on only the essentials.
Boundaries can be based on time, a set of features or even financials. The best projects are often those that happened through limited financial resources and a very limited amount of time.
It's easy to observe the finished product and overlook the skill it took to make it happen.
How many times have you seen a piece of work and thought, “I could have done that.” Sometimes, that’s true – the difference is that you could have done it, but the other person actually did it. In other cases, the most seemingly simple work is made by people who have practiced for years at their profession.
We all know that person who breezes by the conference room, looks at our mad scribbles on the wall and says “but why don’t you just do this?” They have distance from the subject, an aerial perspective which lets them spot that one flower in a field of weeds.
If you find something becoming too complicated, step away from it for a while. When we’re too deep in it or too close to a project, we lose that perspective.
Naturally, most of these things go hand in hand with experience. The more you work, the more skilled you become. The more skilled you are, the more you can trust your instincts. You learn to set boundaries for yourself and can more easily sense when you need to step away or find perspective. But no matter how long you've been working, simple is usually preceded by chaos. It takes a conscious effort to stay simple. The result is always worth it.
Article image from Dieter Rams' "Less But Better"
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the author of this blog, nice to meet you!