In Praise of “Rational Complexity”

14Jan07

It seems everyone is forecasting simplicity as a major theme for 2007. So far a lot of it has been debating what define simplicity and whether we are after simplicity of elegance. After reading Scott Berkun’s post “In defense of simplicity” I thought of a new mindset to frame the simplicity question.

Simple design doesn’t mean brain death: it means being being as simple as necessary to achieve a great experience for a group of people, but no simpler.

When I read this I immediately thought of this notion as “rational complexity”. I think a term from my Ethics class known as “rational self-interest” inspired this. It defines a balance of pursuing self-interest and contributing to society.

I think Scott found this balance in terms of simplicity. Nothing is innately wrong with complexity but there is no purpose to having unnecessary complexity. Whether you call is elegance, simplicity or rational complexity, the big idea at work is finding the right balance.

For more, check out Diego Rodriguez and John Maeda discussing simplicty, or some more links on the theme.

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