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Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication By Alex Creamer Aged 23 他


Why can’t things just be simple? It’s a question I frequently ask myself, I have never understood why life and things in general must be so complicated. That inherent human need to fix the unbroken seems to encourage over thinking and intricacy across all fields. In the modern world most things are designed to be thrown away and replaced. Whilst I was growing up my Dad never replaced things in the house until they were no longer mendable, something that I imagine has been passed down through the generations of his family. He has always appreciated the value of the possessions around him, something that I feel has been lost in modern society. There is so much visual noise around us today that it is easy to forget about the importance of an idea and instead focus on unnecessary add ons that can complicate and dilute good design. I want things around me to work, be practical and where possible be clever. I don’t think that’s too much to ask and as far as I am concerned that is what I, as a student of design, should strive to create.

“There is so much visual noise around us today that it is easy to forget about the importance of an idea...”

As a pioneer of simplicity within design, Steve Jobs, reiterates the words of his hero Leonardo Da Vinci “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” in the Apple II Brochure7 in 19781. Apple have influenced my approach to design. I received my own iMac in 2005 when embarking on my foundation degree. I have never appreciated good design as much as the first time I opened it’s box. Every little tab, flap or cover worked superbly and simply. No tugging or fighting with packaging, no untying wire or tape, it was just intuitive and brilliant. Apple products have been designed to

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be innovative and engage with the owner, everything on it has been designed for a reason. From the metal casing, to the wireless keyboard, to the tiny screw heads underneath. The level of detail is astonishing and yet they are simply, efficiently and beautifully designed. After opening my iMac for the first time I have always strived to recreate that feeling within all of my work.

‘NYC Spaghetti’8 was created in my second year of university, it is an example of the work I like to create. The brief was to package one of five difficult items, I chose spaghetti. As most food packaging uses surface graphics to convey an idea, I chose to make the food the focal point by using strands of spaghetti to create a New York skyscraper. The spaghetti sits on a model of the Chrysler building that I had modelled, thus creating an impression of the building on top. I found similarities with the long strands of spaghetti and tall Manhattan skyscrapers, and used the Italian-American culture at the heart of New York to further relate the two points together. I felt this was an effective idea and simple solution to an area that hadn’t been explored before. This project was encouraged by my tutors at the University of Central Lancashire where we are taught that creative thinking and finding an idea is key. I like this thought process. If something is cleverly designed, crafted beautifully and conveyed simply you can ask for no more in my opinion.

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“Most books written on visual matters are authored by those who analyse rather than experience. Many are hard work and littered with academic jargon - autistic tendencies, cognitive expectancy, formative causation. They are concerned with the mechanics rather than the thoughts, with the match rather than the fire.”2 9

I like mechanics, I hope Alan Fletcher doesn’t mind, I truly think they can create simplicity. Ikea for example

Tube map 1

Chesham

always strike me as a company with a similar ethos.

9

Chalfont & Latimer

Amersham

Watford

Uxbridge

3

Ruislip Gardens

Kenton

Harrowon-the-Hill West Harrow

South Harrow

Northwick Park

Golders Green

Greenford

Kilburn Park Maida Vale Warwick Avenue

Perivale

East Acton

West Acton

3

North Acton

Acton Central

Ealing Common South Acton

South Ealing

Acton Town Chiswick Park

Wood Lane

Shepherd’s Bush Market

2

West Kensington

High Street Kensington

1

2

Gunnersbury Kew Gardens Richmond

4

Heathrow

E Terminals 1, 2, 3

5

3

Fulham Broadway Parsons Green

East Putney

Vauxhall

Southfields

strategic and detailed, yet on the surface elementary. He says “Simplicity and common sense should characterize planning and strategic direction.”3

He created an overall feeling of ease and quality throughout the company that I can’t help but admire. Many deem flat-pack furniture to be a daunting and stressful, so to make a brand ethos that deliberately tries to avoid those emotions is inspiring. They create this aura of ease through the layout of their stores, their adverts, packaging and instruction manuals. Every area of the business that the public see is explored. Whilst working at Honey Creative on a years industry placement I worked on packaging for a brand of TV stands, Ikea boxes were an overriding focus of our research. For Ikea to create a style of packaging that contains little colour and information and yet look so beautiful and

South Quay

New Cross Gate

Tooting Bec

South Wimbledon Morden

3

4

C

Canary Wharf

Northern

Canning Town

Blackwall

Royal Victoria

3

4 Prince Regent

Piccadilly

D

Royal Albert

West Silvertown

Beckton Park North Greenwich

Pontoon Dock

Cyprus

for The O2

Gallions Reach

London City Airport

2

Change at Chalfont & Latimer on most trains From 1300 until 1730 Sundays open for interchange and exit only Change at Kennington at off-peak times if travelling towards or from Morden Change at Finchley Central at off-peak times

Covent Garden

3

Woolwich Arsenal

Not served by Piccadilly line trains early mornings

Heathrow Terminal 4

Open until 2400 Mondays to Saturdays and until 2330 Sundays. Trains may wait for eight minutes before continuing to Terminals 1,2,3

Victoria Waterloo & City

Deptford Bridge

Hounslow West

Step-free access for wheelchair users only

Turnham Green

Served by Piccadilly line trains early mornings and late evenings only

E

Greenwich

4

Elverson Road

Overground

A short walk from either Leicester Square (6 minutes) or Holborn (9 minutes)

Eastcote to Uxbridge

Beckton

King George V

Lewisham

Step-free interchange between Underground, Canary Wharf DLR and Heron Quays DLR stations at street level

Camden Town

Mill Hill East

Custom House for ExCeL

East India

Served 0700 until 2345 Mondays to Saturdays and 0800 until 2345 Sundays

Chesham

Charing Cross branch

Honor Oak Park

Brixton

No special arrangements Bank to Waterloo Open 0615 until 2148 Mondays to Fridays and 0800 until 1830 Saturdays. Closed Sundays and public holidays No special arrangements

Forest Hill

Balham

Tooting Broadway

New Cross

Brockley

Metropolitan

Served until about 2400 Underground station closed until late 2011 Open until 2100 Mondays to Fridays. Closed Saturdays and Sundays Underground station closed until late 2011 Open until 2100 Mondays to Fridays. Closed Saturdays and Sundays

No special arrangements

Becontree

East Ham

Langdon Park All Saints

Poplar

Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich Elephant & Castle Kennington

Stockwell

Jubilee

West Ham

Island Gardens

Clapham Common

Colliers Wood

has developed a system to his stores that is underneath

2

Clapham North

Upton Park

Devons Road

West India Quay

Crossharbour

Hammersmith & City

Elm Park

Dagenham Heathway

Barking

Heron Quays

Borough

Kensington (Olympia)

B

Hornchurch Dagenham East

Plaistow

Bromleyby-Bow

Canary Wharf

Canada Water

Mudchute

Oval

Clapham Junction

2

Westferry

Limehouse

Wapping

Rotherhithe

Southwark

Lambeth North

Clapham South

2

Whitechapel Shadwell

Tower Gateway

Surrey Quays

Putney Bridge

Transport for London

Stepney Green

Blackfriars

Upney Pudding Mill Lane

River Thames

Bermondsey

Upminster Upminster Bridge

Gants Hill

Woodgrange Park

Stratford

Bow Road

Aldgate

Tower Hill

Blackfriars

Cannon Street

Barkingside

Redbridge

Wanstead Park

Mile End

Shoreditch High Street

Aldgate East

Fenchurch Street

London Bridge

Chigwell Grange Hill Roding Valley

District

Leytonstone High Road

Hackney Wick

Bow Church

Monument

Blackfriars Temple Embankment

1

Pimlico

Wimbledon

MAYOR OF LONDON

Cannon Street Mansion House

Charing Cross

Westminster

Imperial Wharf

Wimbledon Park

F

designed. Ingvar Kamprad the founder and owner of Ikea

Bank

Covent Garden Leicester Square

Piccadilly Circus

St. James’s Park

2

Homerton

Bethnal Green

1

St. Paul’s

No special arrangements

Central

Cannon Street

Fairlop

Wanstead

Leyton

Hackney Central

Moorgate

Chancery Lane

Check before you travel

Bakerloo

Circle

Leytonstone

Leyton Midland Road

Waterloo

6

1

Hoxton

Liverpool Street

Barbican

Holborn

Green Park

Victoria Sloane Square

Haggerston

Farringdon

Russell Square

Tottenham Court Road

Hyde Park Corner

South Kensington

Key to lines

A

Newbury Park

3

Dalston Kingsland

Old Street

Euston Square

5

Hainault

Snaresbrook

Walthamstow Central Walthamstow Queen’s Road

Canonbury

Dalston Junction

King’s Cross St. Pancras

Goodge Street

Oxford Circus

Knightsbridge

Earl’s Court

Highbury & Islington

Angel

Marble Arch

Gloucester Road

Barons Court

Hammersmith

Bond Street

Finsbury Park

Arsenal

Caledonian Road & Barnsbury

Euston

Warren Street

South Woodford

Blackhorse Road Tottenham Hale

Upper Holloway

Holloway Road Caledonian Road

Regent’s Park

Lancaster Gate

Queensway

Kensington (Olympia)

Goldhawk Road

Hounslow East Hounslow Central

Heathrow Terminal 4

Notting Hill Gate

Holland Park

Seven Sisters

Manor House

Tufnell Park Kentish Town

Mornington Crescent

4

Woodford

Harringay Green Lanes South Tottenham

Camden Road

Camden Town

Great Portland Street

Baker Street

Gospel Oak

Kentish Town West

Chalk Farm

Grange Hill

Chigwell

Crouch Hill

Archway Hampstead Heath

Belsize Park

2

West Brompton

Hatton Cross

Heathrow Terminal 5

St. John’s Wood

Bayswater

Shepherd’s Bush

White City

Turnham Stamford Ravenscourt Brook Park Green

Osterley

Hounslow West

Swiss Cottage

Edgware Road Ladbroke Grove

Latimer Road

D Northfields

Finchley Road

South Hampstead

Edgware Marylebone Road

Paddington

Westbourne Park

Ealing Broadway

Boston Manor

West Hampstead

Brondesbury Kilburn High Road

Royal Oak

Hanger Lane

5 4

Finchley Road & Frognal

Kilburn

Brondesbury Park

Roding Valley

Wood Green Turnpike Lane

Highgate

Hampstead

Dollis Hill

Kensal Rise Kensal Green Queen’s Park

9

6

Debden Loughton Buckhurst Hill

Arnos Grove Bounds Green

Finchley Central

3

Brent Cross

Neasden

Willesden Green

Harlesden

North Ealing

ways they equate to the iMac box, intuitive and well

Kingsbury

Wembley Park

Stonebridge Park

Willesden Junction

Alperton

8 Epping Theydon Bois

Oakwood Southgate

West Finchley

East Finchley

Hendon Central

South Kenton North Wembley Wembley Central

Sudbury Hill

Sudbury Town

7

Cockfosters

Woodside Park

Mill Hill East

Colindale

Queensbury

Preston Road

Park Royal

ethos signalling encouragement and simplicity. In some

Burnt Oak

Canons Park

North Harrow

Rayners Lane

Edgware Stanmore

Harrow & Wealdstone

Northolt

C

6

High Barnet Totteridge & Whetstone

4

Hatch End Headstone Lane

Pinner

Eastcote

South Ruislip

5

5

Bushey Carpenders Park

Northwood Northwood Hills Ruislip Manor

Ickenham

8 7 6

Watford Junction

Watford High Street

Moor Park

Ruislip

4

Special fares apply

7

Croxley

Rickmansworth West Ruislip Hillingdon

B

Solid and well thought out mechanics but with a branding

2

8

Chorleywood

A

3 4

DLR

Sydenham

F

Penge West

5

Anerley Crystal Palace

Norwood Junction

This diagram is an evolution of the original design conceived in 1931 by Harry Beck Correct at time of going to print, October 2010

West Croydon

5

6

7

8

9

Heron Quays

Step-free interchange between Heron Quays and Canary Wharf Underground station at street level.

West India Quay Not served by DLR trains from Bank towards Lewisham at peak times

Transport for London

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sophisticated is inventive. Their instructions some would say are at times, basic, but not difficult. They are almost so simple you could see them being constructed by Lego savvy children. No words, just great visual instructions. Some companies would overlook these details, but Ikea’s intent on pushing the feeling of affordable quality shows throughout all areas of their company. Why should flatpack furniture be scary, Ikea have made it encouraging and fun.

I suppose within the confines of a business model keeping a consistent strategy and aesthetic is manageable. I would however like to see sensible, practical but clever design within larger institutions. Universities are a good example for me of how only focussing on functionality can hurt good design. Over the summer the university placed new signage up around the whole of our building. No door was left untouched. This for me was a missed opportunity to re-design and re-brand the building much more effectively. Considering it contains the majority of the design courses at the university, could there not have been a place for some creativity? Or even better could the project not have been given to the design students themselves? Sadly there is no sight of this rational, a little bit of thought and planning could have gone a long way. Every door and wall is littered with signs creating so much visual noise that it is impossible to navigate your way through the building intuitively. This is not helped when a considerable amount point in the wrong direction all together! I see no reason why this need for new signage couldn’t have been solved in a better way. A basic level of communication

“This for me was a missed opportunity to re-design and re-brand the building much more effectively.”


amongst the creative students of our faculty would have raised more intriguing and constructive solutions to the problem, for instance there could have been scope for colour coding, typography or even floor art to distinguish the different courses. This could have both identified the area whilst also creating a brighter atmosphere for the students in which to flourish. I feel that there was much more potential for our building, that holds the majority of the creative courses, to stand out from the rest. To explore new routes, experiment, think and break away from the monotonous standard university signage. A basic level of value and ownership for the building would have solved a solution effectively, simply and economically.

Visual noise can be organised and solved with patience and thought, a pioneer of this was Henry Beck. He designed the iconic London Underground map, taking the previously confusing9 but to scale underground map and simplified it in a revolutionary way. When his idea was initially put forward it was rejected, but Beck’s tenacity in the long run paid off and was eventually commissioned after a year long wait. It has been tweaked and modified throughout the years but his initial idea is still standing strong10, and it would be hard to see how it could be bettered. He says: “Looking at the old map of the Underground railways, it occured to me that it might be possible to tidy it up by straightening the lines, experimenting with diagonals and evening out the distance between stations.”4 His idea was to simplify the complex and bring calm to a busy area of transport. Something that is appreciated today in a usually chaotic environment. I think this is a

“It has been tweaked and modified throughout the years but his initial idea is still standing strong...”


prime example of when good design and strong function can go hand in hand without a hitch. Beck took time with his work, redrawing and tweaking his designs for years to come, he had the ability to step back and observe his mistakes, a discipline that is not as easy as it sounds! “Surely the Underground Diagram...must be thought of as a living and changing thing, with schematic and sparepart osteopathy going all the time”5 The above quote by Beck shows his love for perfectionism but flexibility in regards to his work, I believe you have to take on criticism however constructive, and use it to improve your work. But my main appreciation for his design is simple, he didn’t just change the original map for the sake of it, he changed it for a a reason. It has impacted and changed the habits of millions and still does today.

“A Designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” Antoine de Saint-Exupery6 You cannot be confident that you have conquered the brief without knowing you have explored all the areas of the field in front of you. This does not mean sitting with a sketchbook or at a computer all day unwilling to get your hands dirty. It just means taking the time to fully understand and research the brief before deciding where to take it. Once the complex stage has been reached you can take out the unnecessary and start to pair back your work into a more streamlined form.

I truly believe if you can get your idea across with one touch, one image or one sentence then all the hard work

“I believe you have to take on criticism however constructive, and use it to improve your work.”


was worth it. If any embellishments or clever tricks are needed, perhaps it was not such a great idea after all. Where you take that thought or philosophy is up to you, but people like Steve Jobs and Ingvar Kampard don’t just use their products as the idea, they use the store, the packaging, the bags and even the toilets as a way of emoting their creations. I feel that we should take a leaf out of my Dad’s book and really begin to find the the true values and ideas behind the things around us. There is so much information out there via magazines, internet, books, television and billboards that gathering an understanding of what is good and what is bad has become harder than ever. Design is not a throw away thing, it is a commodity and a privilege. I feel Designers should stand back from the noise and complexities that are around them and simplify and strip back their work. This will help people fully appreciate the idea and message at the heart of the design creating a richer and improved level of work across all areas.

If a little bit of patience, understanding and hard work is what it takes to create something as good as what Kamprad, Beck and Jobs have achieved then I am all for it.


Bibliography Books 2. Fletcher, Alan (2001) P1, The Art of Looking Sideways. Phaidon Press Ltd 4. Garland, Ken (1994) P17, Mr Beck’s Underground Map. Capitol Transport Publishing 5. Garland, Ken (1994) P23, Mr Beck’s Underground Map. Capitol Transport Publishing Websites 3. www.evancarmichael.com. Available from http://www.evancarmichael.com/FamousEntrepreneurs/825/Ingvar-Kamprad-Quotes.html 6. Tschumy, Will. Why Design Matters [Online] (2007). Available from www.slideshare.net/wctschumy/why-design-matters Web Documents 1. www.computerhistory.org. Apple Brochure 1978. Available from http://archive.computerhistory.org/resources/text/Apple/Apple.II.1977.102637933.pdf Reference Pawson, J. (2006) Minimum, Phaidon Rothacher, A (2004) Corporate cultures and global brands, World Scientific Publishing Co Oldham, C. (2010) Ten Penneth Images 7. www.computerhistory.org. Apple Brochure 1978. Available from http://archive.computerhistory.org/resources/text/Apple/Apple.II.1977.102637933.pdf 8. NYC Spaghetti (2008) Alex Creamer 9. Early Underground Map, Garland, Ken (1994) P8, Mr Beck’s Underground Map. Capitol Transport Publishing 10. London Underground Map Available from http://www.tfl.gov.uk/assets/downloads/ standard-tube-map.pdf

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication  

An essay on my thoughts about design.

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