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The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life

(Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life)

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  6,263 ratings  ·  314 reviews
Ten laws of simplicity for business, technology, and design that teach us how to need less but get more.

Finally, we are learning that simplicity equals sanity. We're rebelling against technology that's too complicated, DVD players with too many menus, and software accompanied by 75-megabyte "read me" manuals. The iPod's clean gadgetry has made simplicity hip. But sometimes
Hardcover, 100 pages
Published July 7th 2006 by The MIT Press
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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Erika RS
Sep 29, 2013 added it
Shelves: owned, physical
This short (100 page) book gives 10 laws and 3 key properties for designing simple systems. Maeda provides a hand summary of the laws and key principles:

Ten laws:

1. Reduce: The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
2. Organize: Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.
3. Time: Savings in time feel like simplicity.
4. Learn: Knowledge makes everything simpler.
5. Differences: Simplicity and complexity need each other.
6. Context: What lies in the periphery of sim
Mar 31, 2009 rated it liked it
well, i was hoping for much more philosophy. turned out to be mostly about product design.

also, the register was often annoyingly sort of oprahish. explaining to the reader why certain objects make them feel certain emotions, with the implication that if you follow these instructions and buy objects satisfying the following guidelines, you'll soon be feeling better emotions.

that said, i actually really liked most of the 10 laws, and just wish that in the exposition he'd had more examples about b
Nov 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
"Simplicity is about the unexpected pleasure derived from what is likely to be insignificant and would otherwise go unnoticed." (2)

"The Pareto Principle is useful as a rule of thumb: assume that in any given bin of data, generally 80% can be managed at lower priority and 20% requires the highest level. Everything is important, but knowing where to start is the critical first step." (14)

"The best designers in the world all squint when they look at something. They squint to see the forest from the
Ettore Pasquini
Jun 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: design
If this book was supposed to make me a better designer, it failed. It's a collection of thoughts on design taken from a more abstract/holistic point of view. This wouldn't be a bad idea in itself, if only these reflections were a little more insightful. For some (most?) of them I failed to read between the lines. Example: What good is to explain how the TAB key works and how powerful it is in organizing data? Or forcing gratuitious acronyms upon your readers and pretending they'd remember them? ...more
Rafael Bandeira
Jan 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Designers, Minimalists, Managers, Entrepreneurs
Recommended to Rafael by: Franco Marsillac
Shelves: to-re-read
Good study on what simplicity, both real and perceived, are made of, and what to focus on to achieve it. For product design or business management, or even daily life, good concepts are present in the book to help simplify or better understand the complexity around these.

The book is written in a personal and casual tone, sometimes even funny, that transmits a lot about the author, John Maeda, and gives an enjoyable feeling to follow through, as sounds a lot like a conversation. The small size al
Mat Ranson
Jan 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
I like Maeda, I have one of his old design books. This one started off well enough but quite soon I began to feel it wasn't really aimed at me. Maeda has a great capacity for summarising and shrinking information into simple, digestible phrases, but I couldn't help thinking with The Laws Of Simplicity he was shaping aesthetics and technology into metaphors aimed at middle managers looking for the latest self-help book. ...more
Leticia Supple
Sep 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
John Maeda, fascinated by simplicity, has distilled the art of simplicity down to 10 Laws. This text walks you through them, and it is not exactly a simple work.

I say that it is not simple because, while it is a short read it is a lot of information to process. In the beginning, the author states that you could read this in a lunchtime. Well, not unless your lunchtime is at least three hours' long: That's actually how long it took me to read it, over two days. Maybe this days more about the type
Jun 09, 2015 rated it did not like it
The book starts off on a strong note with the first law of simplicity: thoughtful reduction. Reduction is achieved through the principles of shrinking, hiding and embodying. Technologies have been simplified through technological progress, which has allowed small objects to have the same technological capability as larger ones. The size of an object leads to surprise and awe and can be more forgiving than a larger one. An object can also be simplified by hiding features and leaving only the esse ...more
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
With fast progress in technology, I think we shouldn't read self-help books about technology that was written more than 2 years ago from the reading time.

The Ten laws:

1. Reduce: The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
2. Organize: Organization makes a system of many appear fewer.
3. Time: Savings in time feel like simplicity.
4. Learn: Knowledge makes everything simpler.
5. Differences: Simplicity and complexity need each other.
6. Context: What lies in the periphery o
Sep 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, audiobook
This is really a list of 10 or 13 laws/principles of simple design, with a little discussion and a few examples under each. The laws seemed pretty simple, so simple they seemed either self evident or not a large leap to extrapolate from experiences. I didn't find anything groundbreaking, but it is good to have a list like this to think about when you hit a design issue. I listened on audio, and this had the issues of most books focusing on lists - it gives the listener too much to remember. I'd ...more
Dave Sanders
Mar 06, 2009 rated it liked it
This is a sort of "Zen and the art of Being Simple." It's not full of practical advice, but more of a thought-process and style that you should apply to everything to make it simple. Some good underlying principles for those who are designers or who need to communicate ideas, but quite lacking in practical application.

Amusing book for a limited audience I think.
Simon Bostock
May 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-team
This is a kind of 'barely book' - it's slight, in every sense of the word, and I can barely recall any of it. But I wrote oodles in the margins. And I've thought 'through' the book many times.

Go figure.
Ra La
Jan 11, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
I was never able to move past that the author could not comprehend of people different from him. For people that need more than play and fast-forward for your media devices, you are not a part of his target audience.
May 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, tech, design, work
For a book that came out when Amazon only sold books and Friendster was the leading example of a social network, this book is pretty relevant. A good set of design principles that I found could be applied to my work. It delved into spiritual wishy-washy self-help to a degree, but I can see myself returning to this book for inspo.
Vijayender Karnaty
May 01, 2021 rated it liked it
There is a lot about simplicity that the book presents, and lot of interesting facts explained in a non technical fashion.

I was hoping for much more concrete yet simple explanations that lodges the essence of simplicity firmly in you. There has been a good effort to connect the dots, but the explanations or the choice of anecdotes in here sometimes feel weak for their cause.

Though to recall the chapters I liked, I had say the first three - reduce, organized, time. And of the rest learn, emotion
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book and its wry sense of humor. The ideas are well...simple but complex. It’s interesting and full and makes me hmmmm about his ideas and the kinds of ways that they reflect and challenge how I think. I enjoyed this immensely and I think it’s a worthwhile quick read.
Sep 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is worth a read for designers and technologists. I added an extra star because I read it cover to cover in about 1.5 hours and—as a slow reader—that felt great.
T Cho
Jun 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
John Maeda's The Laws of Simplicity is a delightful, tasteful read. It is a book about design, technology, art, feelings, philosophy, humans, nature, human nature, and everything in between.

First of all, when I saw the book nobly sitting on the shelf in the Museum of Art and Design in NY, I found myself immediately gravitating towards it. I was enticed by its slim size and sleek, fashionable cover. I can assure you that the book's impressive looks are matched by the impressive content and insig
Mar 05, 2013 rated it liked it
John Maeda's short, direct essays on the "laws of simplicity" as he defines them, are from a technical viewpoint (both design and technology), but accessible, fresh, and thoughtful. The most engaging ideas for me, as a writer, concerned the role of design in discerning "clarity" (of thought, product, purpose) and that essence within art (what is moving, unexpected, transcendent, beautiful perhaps) that is fundamental to the human spirit, a luminous "reason" for living. This is a likable book tha ...more
Vishal Solanki
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great book for those who want to think about their Innovative approaches! Each title of the Chapter gives us a view what it is gonna deal with which helps us reduce the simplest way to achieve simplicity that could be through thoughtful reduction.organisation makes thing look more organised and easier to solve and fewer, which in turn helps in saving time.Learning helps us gain knowledge and help us complete our task in much easier way..Trust in yourself to achieve big.Failure makes us weak but ...more
Feb 24, 2008 rated it liked it
I thought it was ok...probably a book I will reach for in my design work, but overall I thought it was a little too "cutesy" and quaint. I think the underlying themes are timeless, but it felt like some of the methods they were presented would seem dated in a very short time. I think I get more insight/value from Mr. Maeda's blog.

Without giving anything away, I think the best (most important?) nugget of wisdom comes on the very last page of book.
Earl Gray
My review of this remarkable, spare, and beautiful book is this quote from the author:

"Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful." - John Maeda

This is one I will reread often. I hope you do, too.
Daron Yondem
Dec 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-read, to-learn
I really liked the way the book explains how we need the contrast between complexity and simplicity together. This is not just a "keep it simple" book. The book focuses on how complexity can be simplified. Loved it. ...more
May 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Turned out surprisingly well, given my contempt and impatience for most design fluff-pieces. A little like the Art of War for modern design. Would rec if you're in the business. ...more
Oct 12, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: design, w1, complexity, own
I am interested in the philosophical, scientific, and design characteristics of simplicity and complexity, and the gaps between them. I've been reading widely in this area--mostly in the area of complexity. When I stumbled upon this short book, I was vaguely familiar with the author, and ultimately purchased it due to the reputation of the publisher (MIT Press; most of my nonfiction is from academic presses). While the book delivers on its title--which unfortunately is is not always the case--it ...more
Aug 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I recommend this to anyone who wants to be or considers themselves minimalist in any area of their life. I also recommend it to anyone who is making something for a consumer of some kind, whether that's a product, a piece of writing, an experience, etc. It's a short book that doesn't do any of the work for you, but if you're willing to put in some deep thought about what you're making or doing in the world and how to edit it to be better, then this book is for you.

Maeda’s book is part instructio
Carlos Silva
Jun 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Laws of Simplicity is one of a series of books I've recently taken to read on technology, design, usability, and computer science (a pretty narrow area of expertise as the use of four terms, themselves quite narrow and easy to define, can demonstrate). Other examples of this small bookshelf coincidentally - or perhaps not - included other MIT professors or published authors such as Nick Montfort and Paul Ceruzzi. Nevertheless, the work of Maeda appears to distinguish itself from other books ...more
Angela Lam
This book was an extremely easy read. I finished it in about 4 hours. There're 10 laws of simplicity and 3 technology keys that affect the simplicity of the things we do, which I find logical and easy to understand.

The rules are useful at a high level to think about design in product, technology, business and life in general. I have no design background, though I run a digital business so there's some direct relevance to my work.

But I’d have preferred even more examples and application tips acr
Rohit Patel
Feb 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Three Line Summary: Often the concept of simplicity is talked about in a particular context, be it design, business or human thoughts... but this book encompass it all. True to it's nature, the book is quite compact and the fact that the author was able to fit such a broad subject in 100 page itself reflects on his mastery on the topic. The book starts of with the more direct approach to simplicity talking about, reducing, organizing etc and then takes a more deeper and philosophical view of sim ...more
André Santos
Jan 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
The Laws of Simplicity enumerates 10 laws and 3 keys that define the road to identifying and/or achieving simplicity, applied to any field of life. Overall, the book is short and an easy read for anyone interested in an overview on the topic, as the author turns simplicity explicit through specific characteristics (e.g., reducing, organizing, learning, failing) and personal examples. Interesting insights are also scattered throughout the book, which retain the attention of the reader after putti ...more
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Central Iowa UX B...: The Laws of Simplicity (John Maeda) 1 4 Sep 05, 2013 11:05AM  

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John Maeda [MY-ay-da] is a world-renowned artist, graphic designer, computer scientist and educator whose career reflects his philosophy of humanizing technology. For more than a decade, he has worked to integrate technology, education and the arts into a 21st-century synthesis of creativity and innovation.

Maeda's early work redefined the use of electronic media as a tool for expression by combini

Other books in the series

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  • Simulation and Its Discontents
  • Redesigning Leadership
  • I'll Have What She's Having: Mapping Social Behavior
  • The Storm of Creativity
  • The Acceleration of Cultural Change: From Ancestors to Algorithms
  • Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design
  • The Importance of Small Decisions
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