Innovative Design — Simplicity
A couple of years ago I was walking to a coffee shop using my iPod. I turned it on in my pocket and it blared in my ears. I instinctively turned it down with a quick circular motion of my thumb (iPod still in my pocket). I cycled through a few songs before I realized the current playlist failed capture my interest, so I pulled my iPod out of my pocket and changed from “Acoustic” to “Alternative” (The sounds of U2, Coldplay, and Radiohead where the perfect backdrop to a cold February morning).
After I changed my playlist I stared at my iPod realizing I had just accomplished something remarkable. I just filtered through 3,000+ songs to find the perfect sound track for my short walk to the coffee shop. What amazed me even further was how complacent I had grown to the task; I expected it to be easy, and it was.
Not only was my iPod incredibly simple, but it was incredibly powerful. It had everything I needed with nothing left over. No superfluous feature that 5% of a user group just had to have. The iPod innovated my music experience.
John Maeda in “The Laws of Simplicity” said:
“Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.”
The iPod epitomized that concept. Everything I needed was at my fingertips. Everything I didn’t need was hidden or simply not present. More importantly however, the iPod was intuitive. I was able to operate it instinctively when it was too loud and by touch when I wanted to change songs; every button had a function, nothing was wasted.
I expanded my understanding of Maeda’s statement when I realized that it was easy to design a product with minimal controls but extremely difficult to design a product with minimal controls that makes the user feel uninhibited.
Innovative products remove the obvious and add the meaningful without being complicated.