Embracing Simplicity vs. Embracing Complexity


I’ve made it no secret that I embrace simplicity.

But I know a lot of folks in the industry who take the opposite viewpoint and embrace complexity. The world is chaotic and full of tiny details that don’t play by the rules of broad, generalizing concepts. And that’s true.

I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive, though. And too often, my friends who embrace complexity do so at the sacrifice of clarity to those of us who don’t know what the heck they’re talking about.

For me, simplicity leads to clarity. And clarity wins. Always.

This doesn’t mean that the issues aren’t complex, of course. And any one of the tiny underlying details can screw up everything, no matter how simple the big picture looks.

But that’s the challenge. That’s why making things simple isn’t simple.

The goal is to have a simple foundation that everyone can understand. This, then, helps guide the more complicated details.

Apple makes this look easy. They have an insanely clear focus on how their products should act. Actually building products that live up to this focus, however, is really, really difficult.

I’ve also found that a simple solution can often solve 80% of the problem. A complex solution might solve 90-100% of the problem, but usually takes way more effort. The trick is deciding when it’s worth putting in the extra work, and when 80% is good enough.

Ultimately, I really do try to embrace both simplicity and complexity. Details matter. And they require a lot of thought. I just embrace simplicity more.

Simplicity leads to art. Simplicity leads to clarity. Simplicity leads to action.

Complexity leads to the tax code.

“An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way.
An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.”

– Charles Bukowski

One Comment

  1. Science solves complicated problems in trivial contexts. People solve trivial problems in complex contexts. These are not the same, and require very different approaches. The former, Reductionist. The latter, Holistic. When faced with a problem that they cannot solve, the Reductionist starts simplifying the problem by discarding context and subdividing the problem into smaller problems. The Holist, on the other hand, goes looking for more context.