There is a design principle that could easily apply to most things in life: K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid). The acronym was proposed by Kelly Johnson, lead engineer at the Lockheed Skunk Works, and I’ve since seen the principle adopted by salespeople as ‘Keep It Short with Simplicity’.
Regardless of whether you use this idea for a design, a proposal, a presentation, or your everyday philosophy – the idea rings true, especially in this era of growing choices and complexity.
Simplicity should be a guiding principle since simple things are better understood and enjoyed because they’re often more memorable and reliable.
This idea ties into Ockham’s Razor, which says the simpler design should always be preferred and designers must cut away any unnecessary elements.
Both the K.I.S.S. principle and Ockham’s Razor tell us that complexity is often the enemy of design – the simplest idea is usually the most effective.
Whenever you’re piecing together a presentation, there’s always the temptation to inundate your audience with information and details to ensure they get the message and see that you are well versed in what you’re presenting. While the latter may be true, your audience may lose focus if you bombard them with the minutiae of what you’re trying to convey. When it comes to presentation, less is more.
The same idea extends into general design. Finer details made add a certain level of depth and complexity, but this won’t necessarily make the design memorable or effective.
There should be no shame in minimalism, even if someone brands your idea as ‘basic’ – it’s more important getting the basics right than excelling in the extra details.
Simplicity has given the world a lot of incredible things – Japanese architecture, Zen Buddhism, the architecture of Bauhaus, and the latest wave, Netflix’s Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. Each of these examples celebrate the notion of functionality over aesthetic, which may seem counter-intuitive in the eyes of designers, but as Leonard da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.
Avoid cluttering your design with unnecessary frills and features – scale it back to the basics so you don’t overwhelm your audience.
Whenever I’m putting together a presentation or speech, I always start with a simple list of desired outcomes – never more than three objectives and always an idea that can be conveyed in a single sentence.
Remember, audiences tend to lose concentration the longer they’re made to listen, so start it off with a K.I.S.S. and stick to the basics before you go trying anything fancy. As Marie Kondo said, “Keep only those things that speak to your heart – then take the plunge and discard all the rest.”