In 100 years we have gone from living with with little information from the outside world to one where almost everything is connected.Every two days (in 2010), we are creating more information than in the past 5,000 years.
We live in a world full of options, and not only in the digital space. Breakfast is a good example - supermarkets offer up to 300 types of cereal: this is called the paradox of choice - when there are too many options, it can make it more challenging to decide. This paradox (explored by psychologist Barry Schwartz) proves that not only does it make us unhappy, but also dissatisfied, with the choices that we do make. He says that less is often more. Sound simple to fix? It is - brand consultancy Siegel+Gale published a study that found “decision simplicity” was the single biggest factor in making consumers stay with a brand.
Say it simple
That doesn’t mean that you can’t be trying to solve some big, complex problems. Why? Because complex and complicated are different things. In the natural world, having a complexity worldview means embracing all of the interconnections and interdependency that allows life to thrive, and to see the whole system. Ecologist Eric Berlow shows us that simplicity can lie on the other side of complexity, meaning that we still can have simple messages and takeaways from some sticky, wicked problems.
Our collaboration with localization NGO Local Futures was exactly that - they aim for systemic change in our economy to shift from globalisation to localisation - a huge lever in reducing emissions and empowering local farmers to feed us. This is a very complex topic - one that spans global system (food, economy, transport), and tackles wicked problems such as climate change and inequality. We worked with them on their Action Guide to create a library of over 146 actions across different issues and groups of people to promote local economies around the world. What could have been complicated turned into a simple-to-use interface that was intuitive and fun to explore (and received amazing feedback from different actors of this important movement).
Simply beautiful, simply less carbon, simply better. And pizza.
A simple design doesn’t necessarily mean minimal or boring. Neither it is about going back to some 1990s user interface. Simplicity can be fresh and colourful - all it is is a design process that takes place within constraints. What makes flowers beautiful is their complexity balanced by a simple structure, how can you find a simple way of showing your uniqueness? Be a flower. Humans are naturally attracted by beauty.
Reducing noise in your brand and website will naturally reduce the amount of data. Less data = less energy = less carbon emissions. Pretty simple - using clear communication is good for business and the environment (in fact it’s a no-brainer).
Dieter Rams, one of the most influential designers of the last 50 years speaks of less, but better. “Less is better because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity."
A pizza analogy if you need it:
“My favorite pizza is (vegan) cheese, sauce, and dough. I've tried pizza with loads of toppings, and it's tasty but much harder to eat. Toppings fall off and the crust gets soggy. So I always end up back at cheese, sauce, and dough. I want 14 more toppings in theory, but in practice, I know that cheese, sauce, and dough is the perfect pizza for me. Cheese, sauce, and dough is the MVP (most valuable product) of pizza. From a customer's perspective, it's much easier to make a choice when offered a single product or service versus a multitude of products and services. Complexity isn't inherently bad, but like most things, it needs to be questioned. Maybe all you need is cheese, sauce, and dough."
So, let’s make sure the earth will let us keep living here - it's the only planet where we can make pizza.