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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  4,856 Ratings  ·  248 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 Mit Press
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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
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
mies van der rohe insegna: less is more. e con lui, tutti i più grandi.
munari diceva: complicare è facile, semplificare è difficile. e un paio di secoli prima, blaise pascal si scusava per la lunghezza di una lettera: «non ho avuto tempo di scriverne una più breve».
essere lineari non è (quasi) mai una conquista im-mediata.
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
Sep 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook, business
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Великолепная книга!
И близко не ожидал, что дизайн занимает такое большое пространство в нашей жизни. Такое моё восприятие возможно из-за того что я логик, а дизайн и логика это как два противоположных полюса. Но тем не менее рискну предположить, что эта книга очень сильна в своей тематике. «Законы простоты» та книга, которую следует прочитать всем, кто причастен к создании и воплощению в жизнь услуг, товаров, и прочих ценностей. Читать просто обязательно! :)
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.
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.
Jun 30, 2009 rated it it was ok
This is surprisingly subpar material from someone I greatly admire. The book lacks historical context and the examples used are quite ho-hum.
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book was pretty good - I'm using some of the points in a software UI guideline doc I'm writing for my work.
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
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The laws in this book are very abstract, making it difficult for some to understand how to apply it in their work. However, this is probably the 4th time I've read this book because I continually uncover how new concepts I learn (especially design related ones) are tied to these laws.

For example, the simple law that organizing information reduces complexity is obvious. However, when reading books on System 1 (heuristic based) vs. System 2 (critical based) thinking you realize that when informati
Andrew Mills
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although some product-related anecdotes are dated (the book was written in 2006), the underlying principles are still valid and worthwhile. The acronym mnemonics (e.g SHE, BRAIN, etc.) became slightly grating after a while, but they serve a useful purpose.

The Learn, Trust and Failure section "spoke loudest" to me personally. I wonder if these principles could be applied to less concrete things, such as a workflow process, or creating story narratives? There's also reference to a successor book b
Jay DiNitto
Jul 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an odd, non-technical UX design book. It reads more like a personal philosophical treatise than, say, an explanation of the modern design process. But that fact shouldn't deter you. Maeda offers 10 short, understandable rules for design simplicity, and the book is short enough that you risk very little time commitment in diving in if you're not sure. There are times when Maeda's prose is noticeably ESL (though I don't know if English actually is his second language), but the angular phra ...more
Simon Vandereecken
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: brainfood, business
"Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful."

Un petit livre très intéressant brossant quelques règles extrêmement bienvenues tant sur le sujet du design que de façon plus large dans la vie. Salvateur aussi pour le design en entreprise où tout en chacun est plus enclin à rajouter des fonctionnalités plutôt qu'à en supprimer et aller vers l'essentiel. Une bonne bouffée d'air frais.
Michael Morgan
Aug 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Poetic, insightful, inspiring and useful

This book will serve UX professionals well as they design and research complex experiences that need simplifying. John’s prose is personable and inspiring, like a mentor talking to a mentee without sounding pedantic or standoffish. I plan on posting his laws of simplicity on my desk wall to remind myself of what we should all aspire to in design.
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HMSA Summer Reading: Book Review 1 5 Aug 11, 2017 07:57PM  
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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
“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” 211 likes
“While great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clear.” 3 likes
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