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Friday, November 22, 2013

There's Nothing Simple about Simplicity

"Simplicity is not the absence of clutter. It's refining and being able to define the very essence of something."  
John Ive, Senior V.P. of Design at Apple, Inc.

We use objects, systems and tools everyday that simplify our life and make things easy. Twenty years ago when I graduated from law school, I didn't have a cell phone, an email account, voicemail, social media or the internet. To type a paper, I had to use the Computer Lab at school because no one had a personal computer. The "world wide web" was in its infancy.

Today, I carry an iPhone that weighs ¼ of a pound but can access my email, my voicemail, my social networks, the internet, the prescriptions I need to refill at the drugstore, my Starbucks card that I no longer need to physically carry, my bank account, satellite GPS, traffic conditions, weather conditions, stock market conditions...and can talk to me when I ask it questions. Smartphones illustrate the essence of the complexity behind simplicity.

Can you read? You're reading this (thank you!). We read all day everyday. A simple skill essential to accessing and executing most everything that we do. From food shopping, banking, reading road signs and communicating. Twenty-six letters strung together in various combinations allow us to do all of these things. Twenty-six letters. And only ten numbers. With 26 letters and 10 numbers, we write books, craft national budgets, create algorithms, study science and disease. Worlds open. They improve. Through the simplicity of the tools honed to allow the most efficient connection and communication.

Things that appear seamless never are and certainly aren't an example of simplicity. Systems, tools, even relationships aren't simple because they lack clutter or complexity or problems. They're simple because time was invested to define the essence and purpose of something and then refine it. From the apple that you slice and enjoy to the Apple that you trust with every appointment, document, creative venture and photo, neither is "simple." Because there is no such thing as simplicity. Simplicity is simply the result of mastering complexity.

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