Creative Strategy
April 27, 2021

The hard work is not asking "what can be removed?" - but in removing things.

Open Reference

One of the strategies of good design is to make things simple.

The strategy of simplicity is obvious; the challenge is cutting things out. To do this, you have to understand the essence of an object.

This challenge happens in life as well, you want a good life, and you may see simplicity as a path to it. Then you try to find your essence and ask the old question, "what/who am I." The answer changes over time, but it rings back in your mind as "I'm a person who..." and how you answer acts as a filter.

If you do not answer these hard questions or refuse to ask in fear that you won't like the answer, life and design can be very muddy.

Dieter Rams, the famed german industrial designer, identifies a  principle of good design as "honesty," which is a direct path to essence. For an object to have the quality of honesty, it means that it doesn't hide its material. Wood doesn't pretend to be something else. Of course, this can be fuzzy in the digital space - what is the essence of digital things? What is the material honesty of digital products? 

Simplifying to the wrong thing will change what you make, and you'll end up with something useless but straightforward.
How do you find the essence of something when it's unclear?

The first work of the creative leader is often to explore ideas. Reconfiguring and testing ideas in endless ways until the core form and structure reveals itself, and you become deeply acquainted with it.

The second skill great artists possess is knowing when they have found the center of something - they know when they are finished. In the world of professional creatives, you have to go a step further; you have to know when you've found the center and share it with others - convincing others it's okay to simplify.

Honesty and Iteration are two paths to finding the heart of something. Once you've found the center, the hard work is not only in asking "what can be removed?" - but in removing things.

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