Design is a topic that is as complicated, or as simple, as you make it.
Television programs like HGTV’s Design on a Dime, influence popular understanding of design, but primarily concentrate on interior design – one discipline of a much broader field.
Typically these shows focus on the superficial aspects of design. They deal with cosmetics, the decorative arts, at the expense of a deeper investigation of three-dimensional space, structural design, and the aesthetic essence of what is being created and expressed.
At one end of the spectrum is the stereotypical designer – portrayed as somewhat flaky, emotion-driven and drama-laden. A matter-of-fact contractor who looks at the project as just another job occupies the other end of the continuum.
This stark contrast is necessary to create dramatic tension and good television. But it complicates life for designers in the real world.
It reduces design to simplistic issues like color choices, floor and wall covering selection – primarily cosmetic issues. Design is much broader than these simple decisions.
Design encompasses the total range of ideas, plans, and processes related to making something. It’s the big idea and the act of creating it – simultaneously. But it doesn’t need to be complicated.
Complexity is expensive. It needs to be explained. There is significant overhead attached to communicating complicated ideas so that people understand what is being presented.
The antidote is simplicity. One of the primary goals of good design is to reduce complicated processes and things to simple, easily understood and communicated ideas and concepts.
People want and need to understand ideas and plans, in order to consider, judge, and accept, or reject them. The easiest way to visualize concepts is to present them in their simplest form – one at a time, no more than three per presentation.
Simple should not be confused with simplistic. Simple is an honest, straightforward presentation that is easy to follow and understand. It should stimulate activity.
Simplistic is rote recitation of facts leading to a foregone conclusion. Simplistic delivers an uninteresting presentation, creating an equally uninterested audience, which yields no action.
Simplicity in design is easy to identify. It may not be so easy to execute. It employs the most efficient means possible to create an elegant finished process or form. It is the essence of a process or an object that looks and feels right. It is beyond words. It is the feeling you get when something is done well, made right and appears effortless – simple.