Dr. John Maeda, an associate professor of design and computation at the M.I.T. Media Lab and an award-winning graphic designer, has spent eight months putting forward his own one-word vision of the future: simplicity,” Jessie Scanlon reports for The New York Times.
“There is too much needless complexity in the world, he argues. Technology, which was supposed to make our lives easier, has taken a wrong turn. In 20 years we’ve gone from the simplicity of MacPaint to Photoshop. While the first fostered a creative explosion, the second gave birth to an industry of how-to books and classes. And such complexity is commonplace, Dr. Maeda says,” Scanlon reports.
“The Windows operating system is a case in point. According to Gary McGraw, chief technology officer at the software consultant Cigital, the 2000 version of Windows had 20 million lines of source code. XP, released in 2001, had 40 million – a doubling in less than two years. Critics of such complexity have offered myriad solutions. Writing about the “threshold of frustration,” Bill Buxton, a former chief scientist at the graphics software maker Alias who now runs a consulting firm, called for engineers to focus less on technology and more on who, what, when, where, why – that is, how it’s being used,” Scanlon reports.
After the first year of The Simplicity Design Workshop, some tenets of simplicity have emerged:
1. Heed cultural patterns. The iPod, for instance, succeeded not just because of its sleek form, but because, in conjunction with iTunes, it solved so many of the problems of buying and storing music.
2. Be transparent. People like to have a mental model of how things work.
3. Edit. Simplicity hinges as much on cutting nonessential features as on adding helpful ones, the Newton MessagePad and the Palm Pilot being prime examples.
4. Prototype. Push beyond proof-of-technology demos and build prototypes that people can interact with.