Simplicity Sells

Ironically, one of the most complex tasks we can assign ourselves is to convey an idea as simply as possible. It’s a lot harder than you think. Breaking something down to its basic elements and showing only what’s pertinent in an entertaining and understandable way requires a lot of effort. A great example comes from The Simpsons. When the family arrives at a Readers Digest essay competition, the banner above the registration table reads, “Brevity is . . . wit.” Of course, it might have been nice to have it spelled out that brevity is the soul of wit, but wasn’t that implied? Indeed, it would be difficult to come up with a concept presented more concisely than that.

If we were forced to ration our words and express ourselves as a billboard or a bumper sticker would, imagine how efficient the world would be. Everything pared down, streamlined, an utter rejection of “the limbs and outward flourishes” of tediousness. Wouldn’t there be less misunderstanding? Wouldn’t the message come through clearer?

In graphic design, there is a great temptation on the part of well-meaning and thoughtful clients to over-think and overstock. It’s hard not to do that and we understand why. But when logos have to be bigger and white space obliterated with more content so every element on the page blares away at each other in a constant din, nothing can come through clearly. There’s just too much shouting and clutter.

If Shakespeare were alive today, he would say, “Make it clean, make it simple, make your point.”


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