How simple is simple?

Jony Ive, the legendary Apple industrial designer, said that simplicity is not just the absence of clutter. Paul Rand, the famous 20th century graphic designer, suggested that when you think you’re finished, you should start removing elements from your design up until the point that it doesn't work anymore—then you're done.

Neither description implies that simplicity is being sparse of elements, but rather free of anything getting in the way of the message. Simplicity is the minimum needed to get the message across effectively.

There are times when a design needs more complexity, even clutter, to create the necessary tone or staging to support the point being made. However, there must be a balance between any "window dressing," as it were, and the purity of the message. When is there too much, or too little?

This is one of the differences between fine art and design. Fine art doesn’t require simplicity, it can be complex and take time to have it’s impact. We expect a novelist to weave together plot and characters, a composer to develop themes and repetitions, and painter to create depth and color, and often…complexity. Design—not so much.

Never simplicity for it’s own sake—but for the sake of doing what design is supposed to do, change behavior.