Thursday, June 29, 2006

Cultural Mainframe: Radical Simplicity

My last post, The Sherman Foundation 2006 Calender, doesn't serve any real purpose. It was just the result of me screwing around with a Google app I haven't used yet, Google Calender. I was thinking about all the cool, wonderful tools that have popped up in the last few years and the concept of "Radical Simplicity".

I worked at 2 of the "fast five" consultancies during the internet boom. Worked on lots of big, ugly website builds that were bloated with features and suffered from undisciplined, unfocused designs. Design teams working on interactive apps and software projects always talk about simplicity but in the past they rarely achieved it.

Apple is a design company that has always gotten this. The most vivid example of this to me is iMovie. I remember using Premier, the video editing software years ago. It as a complicated mess of a thing to use. Then one day Apple released iMovie. This incredibly paired-down, simplified, beautiful, easy-to-use software for editing digital video. The moment was truly paradigm shifting for me.

Apple has gone on to do this over and over. It isn't so much product innovation as just getting right what others have made a mess of for years.

Today, you see this approach of "Radical Simplicity" more and more. Think Google, Flickr, YouTube and even Blogger, the software that makes this blog possible. Design solutions that are brave enough to narrowly define what it is they do and don't do executed in an elegant way. Not as easy as you might think.

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