Friday, December 7

Design principle: Ockham's Razor

In reading Brian Greene's "the Fabric of the Cosmos" I came across a great Einstein quote wherein he states "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." I immediately recognized this as Ockham's Razor.

Ockham's Razor is the principle proposed by William of Ockham in the fourteenth century: "Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate", which translates as "entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily". Given a choice between 2 functionally equivalent designs/theories/systems, the simplest should be selected. That in short is Ockhams' Razor also known as the acronym K.I.S.S (keep it simple stupid). When approaching a design problem it is judicious to always apply Ockham's Razor, particularly when confronting a creative block. Begin by identifying all elements and then removing all things unnecessary. Something I did when working on a corporate identity project. I had designed a logo with a frame around it. I could tell I was getting close to an appropriate solution but something just wasn't right. Applying Ockham's clearly showed that the mark sans frame was highly superior to the one with frame. Ockham's razor cleaned up the design clutter.

This design principle also comes in handy when explaining certain design decisions to your team or clients.

Here is a little exercise. Find a less than stellar design - there's plenty out there - and see how many ways you can apply Ockham's Razor to it. How does it improve the design? Does it help communicate the message more clearly? Is it more aesthetically pleasing? Is it difficult to choose what to cut out?

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Tanner Christensen said...

Great article Jason, I couldn't have said it better myself.

If only more designers understood the principal of simplicity in design, we wouldn't have websites that look like crap and logos that look even worse.

Juggling Jason said...

Thank you Tanner. In fact if I remember correctly, you were the one who pointed out the superfluousness of "the frame".

So thank you for that! It taught me an important lesson.