Clean and Simple

In my years of creating designs for clients, the number one request is “we want it clean and simple.” They don’t ask for warm and inviting, dynamic and eye-catching, personable and friendly. Clean and simple is the dominating factor that they’re looking for. So I thought I’d discuss why the request is made, what it means, and how it might not be what you think. I fear that many clients believe that “clean and simple” means “quick and cheap.” That is not the case. 

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~Leonardo da Vinci

 

“Keep it simple, stupid.”

What is simple?

Why do you want something simple? Easy. No, really, you want it because simple is easy. On one hand, yes, it is. Something simple is easy to understand, easy to operate, and easy to explain. It’s simple, no thinking required. The reason Apple has surged and became one of the most valuable companies in the world is its dedication to making things simple. The iPhone is so easy to use it doesn’t come with a manual. The iPod line is intuitive, and even people who aren’t comfortable with technology can use them. Apple’s products are simple.

What is clean?

Clean is a word that’s tossed around a lot. Keep it clean, keep it simple. Simple we just discussed. But what does “clean” mean? It’s free from clutter. It’s organized, orderly, efficient. Everything has its place, everything has its space. Nothing extra to get in the way and mess things up. The bare bones. Only what you need. Clean. Again, Apple excels at clean. Their computers use gorgeous lines, solid matte finishes, glossy screens, and an icon-less desktop. When you first start your Mac, you won’t have to sort through trial versions of programs. You’ll have a small program bar at the bottom of your screen, nothing on the desktop. It’s refreshingly clean. Ahhhhh.

Apple is clean and simple. Apple is also expensive. Really expensive. Oh yes, the two are related.

We all like things that are easy. But not all of us can create something that’s simple. Apple knows how to make things simple, and they charge you a lot of money for it.

Clean and simple is not easy to pull off. It requires a keen eye, knowing where to place each element to give it the most impact. Knowing what makes things simple is the key to creating simple. You have to know how to organize for efficiency; what elements are needed and what are superfluous. In short, knowing how to create simple isn’t simple at all. It requires a lot of creation and deletion, experimenting with what works best, and what doesn’t work at all. Constructing clean and simple takes a lot of time.

Clean and Simple ≠ Cheap

A minimalist design does not mean a minimalistic bill. Sorry. Just because the final design uses less does not mean tools, time, and talent were not used to create it. Simple and clean websites take just as much or more time to execute and complete than their fun and active counterparts.

You may also want to read the following:

Simplicity isn’t that simple

Wonderful Whitespace


About the author

Courtney: Courtney Kirchoff is a published novelist and web designer. She lives and works in the greater Seattle area.


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