Complexly Simple

A few weeks ago, a client stated that among the most important factors for her new branding, she wanted a design that was complexly simple.Whenever I need to ponder a thought, I typically get up from my desk and walk around a bit, refresh my coffee, walk outside; this is exactly what I did after reading this.

Complexly simple? Is she requesting the impossible? How can I achieve two antonyms in one design?

The more I thought about this, the more I realize how gravely important the “complexly simple principle” is for any design concept: branding, studio art, interior design, motion design.

A design too simple can pose the problem of being forgettable. A design too complex can become messy and revolting. (Studies show the brain associates difficult words, images with danger and risk.)

So, how can one achieve both- simple and complex?

I’ve reduced the complexly simple design principle to 4 actionables:

Allow the eye to move freely. Create white space, spacing between elements, patterns for the eye to follow. Most viewers review a space beginning at the top left and ending at the bottom right. Consider this viewing pattern.
Viewing Pattern

Develop balance or symmetry. Symmetry is most often considered beautiful. “In the natural world, anything symmetrical is usually alive. Animals, for instance, have symmetrical shapes.” -V.S. Ramachandran, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego

Depict details that become memorable. Create elements that stand out and “stick.” “Is it so memorable, in fact, that it can create change, that it can spur someone to action?” -Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point

Create an experience. Have a core idea that is consistent for users to develop emotional attachments. “The only way to do this is to develop a real understanding of the target audience.”-Forbes “Rethink experiences from ground up to create magical moments.” -Tony Fadell, former SVP of iPod Division at Apple

Less is more, but too little is not enough.

“But simplicity is really about comprehension and clarity of purpose…can we design such that people instantly understand what’s going on and make a confident decision about what to do next?” –52 Weeks of UX