The balance between simplicity and personality

Paul Boag

As you will have gathered from my last post I am reading Steve Job’s biography. The latest thing I have just read is the balancing act Steve had to achieve between his desire for Zen like simplicity and the needs to add personality to his products:

Jobs felt that design simplicity should be linked to making products easy to use. Those goals do not always go together.

Sometimes a design can be so sleek and simple that a user finds it intimidating or unfriendly to navigate.

It goes on to say:

His design sensibility is sleek but not slick, and it’s playful. He embraced minimalism, which came from his Zen devotion to simplicity, but he avoided allowing that to make his products cold. They stayed fun. He’s passionate and super-sesious about design, but at the same time there’s a sense of play.

I loved this section, because it highlights a struggle I am seeing within the web design community. It is a battle between sleek, usable design and something with creativity and personality. It’s not that the two options are mutually exclusive. It is just that it is a difficult balance to achieve and there is disagreement about where the line is drawn. However, when designers find this balance they create something truly remarkable.

For me Mike Kus is one such designer. His work is packed with personality and yet never at the cost of usability. More of us need to strive for such balance.