“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” I’m not exactly sure who this quote is attributed to — maybe Einstein — but regardless, I love it. I’m a big fan of simplicity.
I have a cookbook in my kitchen by Jamie Oliver where each recipe contains no more than 5 main ingredients. There’s a picture of the 5 ingredients, a picture of the final product, and a short explanation about how to make it. It’s my favorite cookbook (and also my only cookbook).
When I go to a restaurant I prefer to see a short menu rather than a long menu. Not only because it’s easier to make decisions that way, but because I have little confidence that a restaurant with an interminable menu can make that many terrific dishes all at once.
And in architecture school, I remember being taught that every design project should really only have one principal idea. If you have two ideas, that’s probably one too many. Distill it down. Clarify the idea that you’re trying to communicate.
Because here’s the thing about simplicity: it’s usually more work to make things as simple as possible, but not simpler. It takes effort. It takes iterations. Whether that be in cooking, design, or in writing.
But once you’ve got it, simplicity is a beautiful thing. And it also greatly increases the chance that somebody will actually remember the message that you’re trying to get across. Five ingredients. A short menu. And one architectural idea. That’s all it might take.