The Ive Doctrine: Complexity within Simplicity, Part 1Posted: 2011-12-02
“Why do we assume that simple is good? Because with physical products, we have to feel we can dominate them. As you bring order to complexity, you find a way to make the product defer to you. Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex. The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it’s manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.”
(From Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson)
I can’t wait until I get a chance to read the Steve Jobs biography. My Mom got it for me for Christmas, which means that I have to wait until December 25th before I can start reading it. (Of course, she read it before me and keeps telling me things about it. How mean. 🙂 ) However, this quote from the book has been circling around the internet ever since it was published.
The quote comes from Mr. Jony Ive, Apple’s vice president of industrial product design. (If you want to read about him, I wrote a nice, long piece for the HaiTeq blog.) I found it to be completely profound.
The postmodern world seems to be obsessed with simplifying. I think that Apple has sort of acted as a catalyst for this. However, Apple (and Jony Ive and Steve Jobs specifically) have had a much better understanding of what simplicity truly is.
I believe that simplicity is good. Too much complexity just makes our brains spin in circles. Occham’s Razor probably applies more in the postmodern world than it ever has before.
Postmodern attempts at simplicity tend to focus on removing everything unnecessary from an object. They attempt to make the construction and technical side of it easier to understand. This requires less development time, and it does not require a large amount of intelligence to create.
What Ive is stating in this quote is that simplicity does not mean that you do less work or design the task to require less understanding to create. Rather, true simplicity is an indicator of proficiency. In order to embrace simplicity, one must first completely understand the complexity. He must master it, understanding every bit of the complexity so that he knows how to best work with it to create the simplicity it deserves.
Ive’s doctrine on simplicity is one of the most profound things I have read in a long time. It was intended to be referring to computers, but it applies to just about every aspect of our lives, including the spiritual ones. I have made a list of some areas of life where I feel this is quite important and highly radical. In order to avoid the “tl;dr” syndrome that so permeates the internet, I will split this into a series of posts. The forthcoming posts will list the areas where this quote from Ive is highly relevant.