Simplexity: Simple AND Complex


This postings elaborate on a previous blog posting from 10.26.2006, called Simplexity: Simplicity Layered on Top of Complexity.

Since day one designers have been balancing simplicity with complexity. Those working with digital media have done it visually, conceptually, and technically (at least).

Jared K over at the Info Tech & Social Life blog posted a post called “Simply Complex”

“I recently read the “the laws of simplicity” by John Maeda and it discusses as greenfield has, the complexity of and within simplicity. Maeda discusses how devices such as the IPOD have succeeded in appeal because they follow the law of complexity within simplicity. Meaning, the device is simply a wheel that can function through a complex system of tasks to acheive the system goal. The look is simple the technology is innovative and simply, complex. This can definitely relate to the ubiquitous system. The system must be extremely efficient and user friendly in its simplicity, but in order to achieve this there will need to be an extensive organization of complex networked architecture for the system to function as it has been imagined, to serve the people.”

Simple AND Complex
This reminds me of simplexity (I’ve been fumbling trying to define what it means for myself and any for anyone else who may care to read this blog). Here again is another attempt:

Simplexity (general concept)
• simplicity layered on top of complexity
• the synthesized idea that something can be simple AND complex at the same time
• the idea that both complexity and simplicity are needed in systems in order to improve the odds that the system and its end-users can be successful at achieving their goals

Cycle of Simplexity
• the iterative act of adapting a system to new and contextualized requirements and its complimentary act of transfering the resulting complexity away from the end-user interface

Conceptual Simplexity
(related to accessibility, understandability, usability in concepts)
• A cyclical action, like zooming-in and out a concept to understand it at different levels of detail and complexity
• a simplyfied concept linked to progressively more thorough, more correlated, more contextualized (and more complex) elaborations on the concept

Simplexity cycles begin with words
If we are going to try to manage complexity we must understand at least some of the dynamics of complexity. Building a contextual vocabulary to describe its dynamics is a modest step towards understanding. It is also the first conscious action that may start a simplexity cycle.

Related books

1. Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (and How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple)

2. The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life)


5 thoughts on “Simplexity: Simple AND Complex

  1. A friend pointed me to your site thanks. I suspect you will find that the Tipu Ake ki te Ora Organic Leadership model maybe helps us more simply gets our heads around the dynamics and complexity inherent in organisations … Perhaps it mirrors there some of the thinking you have done around i-pod form a technical design perspective

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