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

The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life) PDF

Author: John Maeda

Publisher: The MIT Press


Publish Date: August 21, 2006

ISBN-10: 0262134721

Pages: 128

File Type: EPub

Language: English

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Book Preface


As an artist, I’d like to say that I wrote this book for myself in the spirit of climbing a mountain “because it’s there.” But the reality is that I wrote it in response to the many voices of encouragement—either by email or in person—from people that wish to better understand simplicity. I’ve heard from biochemists, production engineers, digital artists, homemakers, technology entrepreneurs, road construction administrators, fiction writers, realtors, and o≈ce workers, and the interest just seems to keep on growing. With support there is always discouragement: some worry about the negative connotations of simplicity where it can lead to a simplistic and “dumbed-down” world. You will see in the latter part of this book that I position complexity and simplicity as having importance relative to each other as necessary rivals. Thus I realize that although the idea of ridding the earth of complexity might seem the shortest path to universal simplicity, it may not be what we truly desire.

I originally conceived this book as a sort of Simplicity 101, to give readers an understanding of the foundation of simplicity as it relates to design, technology, business, and life. But now I see that a foundation can wait until I’m 85 like my professor friend, and for now a framework will su≈ce which you now hold in your hands. Also, in the course of completing my MBA, I found that the majority of books on innovation and business are published by a single authority. I have been mellowed by many sobering events in my otherwise extremely fortunate life, so I was looking for something that was more heartful than a book specifically aimed at the technology or business market.

My good friends at the MIT Press were supportive of a softer and more creative approach to the developing arena of simplicity and here you have the first step in such a series. The price-point and design of these books were carefully targeted for the distinguishing reader that is looking for something new and diΩerent. At the heart of the series is a focus on the business of technology, grounded in an expert’s knowledge of design, and with a light touch of curiosity about life. I welcome you to this creative experience.


The ten Laws outlined in the body of this book are generally independent of each other and can be used together or alone. There are three flavors of simplicity discussed here, where the successive set of three Laws (1 to 3, 4 to 6, and 7 to 9) correspond to increasingly complicated conditions of simplicity: basic, intermediate, and deep. Of the three clusters, basic simplicity (1 to 3) is immediately applicable to thinking about the design of a product or the layout of your living room. On the other hand, intermediate simplicity (4 to 6) is more subtle in meaning, and deep simplicity (7 to 9) ventures into thoughts that are still ripening on the vine. If you wish to save time (in accordance with the third Law of time), I suggest you start with basic simplicity (1 to 3) and then skip to the tenth Law of the one which sums up the entire set.

Each section is a collection of micro-essays that cluster around the main topic presented. Rarely do I have answers, but instead I have a lot of questions just like you. Every Law begins with an icon of my design that represents the basic concepts I present. The images are not a literal explanation of the contents, but may help you to better appreciate each of the Laws. There is also associated Web content at where you can download the artwork as desktop patterns in case that will help to motivate you.

In addition to the ten Laws, I oΩer three Keys to achieving simplicity in the technology domain. Think of them as areas in which to invest R&D resources, or simply to keep an eye on. How these Keys, and the Laws, connect to market valuation is a new hobby of mine. Those experiments and further predictions of simplifying technology trends are visible as a free service on as well.

I intentionally capped the total page count at 100 pages in accordance with the time-saving third Law—which is truly dear to my heart. Thus the entire book can be read during your lunch break or else on a short flight. But please don’t feel pressured to rush through this book. When I first set out with youthful zeal to attack the simplicity question, I felt that complexity was destroying our world and had to be stopped! At a conference where I later spoke, a 73-year old artist took me aside and said, “The world’s always been falling apart. So relax.” He’s probably right. So take his advice and try to lean back while you read this book, if you can.

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