Simplicity

Simplicity is

Key Concepts: Design Thinking; Styles of Writing; Customer Discovery; Persona; Tone; Voice.


After clarity, simplicity may be the most highly prized element of written and spoken language in the 21st century. The concept of simplicity is so popular that it has been encapsulated by the acronym KISS (keep it simple, stupid). That said, some might argue that brevity holds second place in terms of the most important stylistic element of contemporary writing.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication

Leonardo DaVinci

Simplicity & Written Language

The ability to make a complex topic comprehensible to an audience is especially important in professional and technical writing. Sometimes in school settings, students believe they need to adopt

Simplicity is a stylistic element of a text. Stylistis, writers, and teachers that pertains to information as simply as possible. This does not mean that the information being conveyed is necessarily simple. A subject, a topic, may be extremely complicated, yet still presented as simply as possible.

Perhaps because we are bombarded with information on a daily basis, we tend to have little patience with superfluous stuff, including vague language, disorganized prose, on unsupported claims and underdeveloped content. As readers, we hate it when writers go off on tangents or employ inappropriate rhetorical appeals. Unless the text is intended to be a work of literature/art, most audiences just want the bottom line. For many writers this translates into succinct prose, a professional/technical writing style, and introductory paragraphs written in a deductive style that identifies the thesis/purpose for writing.

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.

Hans Hofmann

Simplicity & the Writing Process

To achieve simplicity, writers, speakers, knowledge workers . . . must carefully analyze the rhetorical situation: they need a robust understanding of their audience to differentiate given information (what the audience already knows) from new information. At the global level, they maintain a tight focus on the purpose. They pivot their use of diction, examples, organizational structure, and methods based on the needs of their audience. In turn, simplicity at the paragraph level is often associated with clarity flow, coherence, and unity. In turn, at the sentence level, simplicity is tied to the length of the sentence, the use of introductory clauses and phrases, and the artful use of sentence patterns.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Albert Einstein

Simplicity & Product Development

Thanks to the success of Steve Jobs and his relentless pursuit of simplicity in the design of Apple products, the concept of simplicity is now a well known aspirational goal among designers:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand the underly challenges and come up with elegant solutions. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.

Steve Jobs

Recommended Readings