Simple design, the often misunderstood.
The Problem with Simple
As web designers it’s always tempting to add more and not be simple. We all know that ‘less is more’ but in practice it’s not always easy. This can be made harder when working for clients. On occasion it’s been known to hear the dreaded;
I could have designed that in Word.
and almost always when a site has been designed with a clean layout and beautiful typography, or a typographic logo with perfect kerning and proportions. Either way in the clients eyes it’s not been ‘designed’.
At that point it should be your job to try and educate the client to see things differently. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try it’s just not possible. It’s then your mission as ‘design’ mind readers to get into the mindset of that client and create a design they would of created, if they could. It might not be your choice of style, or something that you would have created had you been given complete freedom, but it does keep the client happy and money coming in.
Why It Occurs
Over thinking and over designing is human nature, we all urge to ‘make things better’ when in fact something that ‘does the job’ is all we need. Everyone wants some kind of dynamic element, but a lot of times this just causes distraction from the actual message you’re trying to convey. If you look at the vast majority of popular aesthetics in graphic and web design today in 2013, you find that most follow a minimalistic approach. A good example of this is highlighted in a couple weather apps that we’ve recently downloaded.
Solar is a beautiful app with a super simple interface and gesture based navigation. The background colour changes depending on the time of day or current weather (sunny – orange, cold – blue). We love the look of it, but never seem to use it.
The other is Weathercube – another great app with more detailed weather information than most. It also has clever gesture based navigation with beautiful animations making it very appealing. The problem is that neither of these are as simple as the standard Apple weather app.
The standard weather app sits on home screens and we expect more people want to replace it with another but just don’t. Open the app and it tells you all you need to know. It might not look as simple as the others but you don’t have to think about how you navigate or interact with it as all the information you need is on screen in one place. The icons look semi realistic unlike the more simplistic graphics of the other apps. You don’t need to think about what the icons mean or try and figure out how warm it is by looking at a colour, you just know because it says so in the simplest possible way.
Two of the largest and most popular companies in the world are Apple and Microsoft. Looking at both of their websites, we see that both are a totally simple minimalist design. Both are very clean, not a lot of dynamics but still very impressive. In doing this you focus on your message and products at all times. Large high rez photos are always an obvious advantage, but as far as the rest of the elements we see no shadows, no clutter, just nice clean typography and color direction. Obviously this design approach doesn’t work for everyone, but it has certainly worked for them.
Sometimes the simplest designs get overlooked in the desire to ‘make things better’ and as a designer it’s easy to get swept up in a clients mindset. Next time you think a design ‘needs more’ take a different approach and strip it back, you’ll probably find that in taking away you’re actually adding more.
Keeping it simple is not as easy as it sounds, but once you’ve mastered it you may find yourself producing your best work so far. And next time a client says to you “I could have designed that in Word”, you can always add more to keep them happy. After all, they do pay the wages and it is key is to maintain a great relationship with the client, leaving them feeling satisfied at the end of a project but saving you the heartache, pain and tears that running a project can bring.