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Less Is More


This is a design context book that looks at simple ideas and content to question if ‘less is more?’. Exploring a variety of research and interviews from individual designers, the book will be evaluating the ‘less is more’ statement through illustration, layout, typography and photography pieces of design. Interviews: Abi Huynh Albert Exergian Amandine Alessandra Daisy Argyle Hans Gremmen Jesse Kirsch Joe Prince Lotta Nieminen Marc Monguilod Rake Marshall

01 07 11 17 22 27 32 38 44 51

Quotes: Philippe Starck Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Bob Dylan Jeremy Spencer Apple Shuffle Donald Norman BBDO Düsseldorf Jacob Lawrence Joe Prince Andy Goldsworthy

58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67


Less Is More

Abi Huynh

01

ABI HUYNH

www.abiabiabi.com abi@abiabiabi.com


02

Abi Huynh

Less Is More

“Over-simplifying a topic a disservice obfuscate rather t


Less Is More

Abi Huynh

actually does the e and serves to than illuminate�

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04

Abi Huynh

Do you believe in the saying less is more? No, I believe that works should be as simple as they need to be. Sometimes a topics or area of research can be distilled down to simple ideas and forms ... But in some situations over-simplifying actually does the topic a disservice and serves to obfuscate rather than illuminate.   Why do you create simple designs? At times my work is simple, I think I strive to make work ‘seem’ simple, but encasing a few layers that can be unraveled by the viewer/ user/reader. The trick is to twist perception in a very simple manner.   What inspires you? History and language are big inspirations, terms of graphic design work I like to be inspired during the research of a subject or topic, usually something reveals itself that provides an inspirational spark. Does your work fit with your personality? I think so, I am pretty even tempered and methodical, so thus my work generally reflects those qualities, and when there is humor in my work, it is mostly dry. Is simplicity part of the problem solving? As opposed to being part of the problem solving - simplicity can be the end result of problem solving or alternatively the simplest solutions are usually problems that are re framed in a more elegant (simple) manner.

Arietta, process/specimen 2009

Less Is More


Less Is More

Abi Huynh

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06

17x22, issue 2: status Poster publication

Business card Or some people say ‘contact card’

Abi Huynh

Less Is More


Less Is More

Albert Exergian

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ALBERT EXERGIAN

www.exergian.com office@exergian.com


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Albert Exergian

“A great team often gives you great inspiration”

Less Is More


Less Is More

Albert Exergian

09

Do you believe in the saying less is more? It really depends on the project. In general I would agree. But I still believe this is a topic for a longer discussion. Why do you create simple designs? I like the idea. Saying a lot with as little as possible is a challenge and not as easy as many people think. What inspires you? I do a lot of research, because I am interested in different styles. Still the ultimate inspiration or let’s say what keeps me going are the people who surround me. I share an office with a creative crew named super plus and the photographer Moritz Schell. A great team often gives you great inspiration.

Six Feet Under, Series 2 Popular TV Show

Does your work fit with your personality? Would be a real drag if it wouldn’t. Is there fine line between modernist design and simplicity design? Depends on what definition you have for those two subjects. What does simple mean to you? Less but better - dieter rams.


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Lost, Series 2 Popular TV Show

Albert Exergian

Scrubs, Series 2 Popular TV Show

Less Is More


Less Is More

Amandine Alessandra

11

AMANDINE ALESSANDRA

www.amandinealessandra.com tellme@amandinealessandra.com


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Amandine Alessandra

Less Is More

“At this stage you layers and layers o until you are its he what makes it alive


Less Is More

Amandine Alessandra

13

just start removing of your concept eart and that’s e and working�


14

Amandine Alessandra

Do you believe in the saying less is more? Yes, although simplicity is hard to achieve. It’s rarely about keeping things simple, it’s more about getting rid of as much as you possibly can while retaining the meaning. I like things which are visually simple but that echo to multiplicity of levels of understanding. Why do you create simple designs? I don’t know if my designs are simple. I guess that the simpler it looks, the more complicated it has been to get it to look simple to get the idea through. It’s simpler and tempting to make complicated things. Complicated is simple, is complicated. What inspires you? Puns, Freudian slips, English and foreign idioms are an untraceable source of inspiration, and playing with words as well as George’s Perec and OULIPO work. Does your work fit with your personality? The sources of inspiration I quoted just before trigger daydream. I’m certainly a daydreamer. I’m also quite clumsy, and mistakes are great as they take you to unexpected paths in design.

Contextual Letter form (Experiments) 2010

Less Is More


Less Is More

Amandine Alessandra

Is there fine line between modernist design and simplicity design? Modernism was a cultural movement, a utopia against traditional form and bourgeoisie that was applied to architecture, graphic design and product design to change society. Simplicity design is purely formal. What does simple mean to you? Formal purity and straightforward concept. Is simplicity part of the problem solving? Yes, it is that stage when you know that you’ve got your idea but that you need to make it immediately accessible to an audience. At this stage you just start removing more and more layers of your concept until you are its heart and that’s what makes it alive and working.

Contextual Letter form (Experiments) 2010

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Take a seat and say something 2010

Amandine Alessandra

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Less Is More

Daisy Argyle

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DAISY ARGYLE

www.daisyargyle.com daisyargyle@googlemail.com


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Daisy Argyle

Less Is More

“This way of thinking was inspired by Anthony Burrill’s prints you do what you do and they do why they do”


Is Less More

Daisy Argyle

Do you believe in the saying less is more? Simple is good but not necessarily better. It depends on context and what’s appropriate, in cases simple might be lazy. With regard to design clarity is most important I think. If simple is appropriate and delivers the message or meaning of a design effectively then perfect however the same could be said about heavily embellished design. Deciding which elements are essential and which are just for fancy is the challenge in simple design; how to minimize waste and distraction whilst delivering a clear message that comes across with the appropriate tone of voice. I don’t believe either simple or elaborate is better. I believe what is appropriate is better. Why do you create simple designs? In my personal work, some of my designs are simple because I am currently attached to the challenge of stripping back to what is essential and adding a twist to give the idea depth. With my first set of prints I was targeting a specific audience being Leeds. I want people to look at my prints and read what they say and feel any projected emotion through the colour used rather than typeface, texture or decoration (which injects a stronger effect of personal taste) that’s not to say that in the future I wont put more detail into my work but at the moment its the message which is the focus and the play on colour or titling that adds depth to what otherwise is perceived as simple.

Chuffin Love You Like 2010

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Daisy Argyle

What inspires you? All lot of things inspire me, even the things I hate sometimes because it creates a passion visually comment. In my current work I think its fairly clear that Yorkshire has inspired me due to the regional accent reflected in my first series of prints. In my second series it was the fact that I was suddenly a northerner in London, being exposed to posh speakers made me wonder how my accent affected their views of me and where I come from. Visual inspiration comes mainly from blogs rather than specific designers because I trying to get out of the trap where you love someone’s work so much it’s all you can compare yours against, I don’t want to buy anyone’s style or stick to design fashion anymore (which is a difficult trap to avoid at uni) I want to figure out what I do. This way of thinking was inspired by Anthony Burrill’s prints ‘you do why you do and they do why they do’ also ‘think of your own ideas’. That’s why I look at blogs for inspiration, it’s harder to follow up and I might spot a detail in an image that gives me a new idea rather that make me wish I was a certain designer. Does your work fit with your personality? I guess it does because it comes from me, it’s not a conscious thing I try and inject, but I am sure I can not avoid fitting my work with my personal tastes.

Less Is More

Is there fine line between modernist design and simplicity design? On the surface yes, but I believe their motivations are different. Modernist design is focused on being ageless and I think prides form over function. Simple design I feel would prioritize function over form. Both involve stripping back what is unnecessary such as ornamentation or bulk which links them visually. What does simple mean to you? Simple on the obvious level means ‘clarity’. But I can’t help but think of the word ‘rest’. By this I am trying to think of space, something easy on the eyes which creates a pause and clear point of focus for the reader when it’s interacted with. On a broader scale, as a designer, design is the positive and the environment around design is the negative, of course designers need rest from design because for us it will never simply stay at work, well this is why I always keep my flat simple because it is like my negative space from work which is the positive. Is simplicity part of the problem solving? Simplifying the problem helps figure out how best to execute an appropriate solution. So yes for me it is, but it doesn’t mean that the final outcome should be simple.


Less Is More

Chuffin Love You Like 2010

Daisy Argyle

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Hans Gremmen

Less Is More

HANS GREMMEN

www.hansgremmen.nl post@hansgremmen.nl


Less Is More

Hans Gremmen

“Less is more is often used as an excuse to make nothing into something�

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Hans Gremmen

Do you believe in the saying less is more? Not necessarily. One should use the things that are needed to get a message across. If these are limited things, then it can be done simple. But sometimes extra layers should be added. Note to this: “simple” is off course very subjective as a criteria without reference frame. What is simple for me, can be highly complex for somebody else, and also can be the other way around. Why do you create simple designs? It is not my goal to create simple things. But I have a way of working that I start to strip things down to the core of the story. After that I start building again and add things that are needed. Sometimes that is not much. Then ‘simple’ pops up in the head. What inspires you? The music video ‘subterranean homesick blues’ from Bob Dylan. One of the best video’s ever made, with (almost) no budget. Just a simple idea, and also some twists within that simple idea. That makes it clever, otherwise simple ideas are an excuse to be home early at the end of the day. That is not the point the saying “Less is more” is often used as an excuse to make nothing into something. That happens when people think it is just a style to keep things simple.

Less Is More


Less Is More

Hans Gremmen

Does your work fit with your personality? Haha, yes, I am a very simple guy. Is there fine line between modernist design and simplicity design? In the outcome in form the two can sometimes look-a-like. But in fact essence of the two are the complete opposites. What does simple mean to you? Either: “very clever”, or “very lazy”.

W139 - Amsterdam, Report of an Ongoing Journey 2006

Post-St.. Joost Fotografie Eindexamen 2006

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OT 301 2005

Hans Gremmen

Less Is More


Less Is More

Jesse Kirsch

27

JESSE KIRSCH

www.jessekirsch.com design@jessekirsch.com


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Jesse Kirsch

Less Is More

“I guess the trend i look at apple and Super simple and


Less Is More

Jesse Kirsch

is less is more... d their designs.... yet so perfect�

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Jesse Kirsch

Do you believe in the saying less is more? Absolutely. I think that if something works with a minimal amount of information then it is smarter. Its not that I don’t like intricate design.... It can be amazing, beautiful and smart all the same. I just think there is something about simplicity that is refreshing.  Why do you create simple designs? I just personally like the way it looks. I like the boldness of plain type, bold colors and open space. There is already so much clutter out in the world, it’s nice to have some “open space”. Also, I can be a lazy designer sometimes and the less elements I have to work with the better. What inspires you? Everything. I usually check out the usual design annuals, magazines, books, etc. But I always keep my eyes open wherever I am. There is always something interesting hidden in plain site. I am a big fan of the outdoors, especially hiking. I find it clears my mind. Being out in nature with no man made distractions helps me come up with new ideas. Does your work fit with your personality? In some ways yes, some ways no. I am bold and have strong opinions. But I am kind a shy too and don’t really “stand out” in a crowd. But I am smart... I think so anyway!

New York City Created School of Visual Arts

Less Is More


Less Is More

Jesse Kirsch

31

Is there fine line between modernist design and simplicity design? Good question... not really sure. Something can be modern and also complex. I prefer modern design that is simple. I guess the trend is less is more... look at apple and their designs.... Super simple yet so perfect.   What does simple mean to you? The dictionary says it best....  Easily understood or done, presenting no difficulty, plain, basic or uncomplicated in form, nature or design. Never tell a client that your design is simple... most take it as a negative and don’t appreciate the value of simplicity. Simple is powerful. 

19Th Annual Columbia, University Film Festival 2006

Is simplicity part of the problem solving? Definitely. It takes a lot of thought and effort to know how to distill something to its most basic elements. You need to know where to begin, but also where to stop. It’s so easy to just keep changing/adding/tweaking something. You have to figure out how to take something complex and make it simple. This is especially true for logos (in general). Taking the whole idea and philosophy of something and turning into one mark.


32

Joe Prince

Less Is More

JOE PRINCE

www.admixdesigns.com joe@admixdesigns.com


Less Is More

Joe Prince

33

“Simple designs are not only memorable, but can also stand the test of time which are two of the most important aspects when speaking in terms of design�


34

Joe Prince

Do you believe in the saying less is more? The beauty that is found in simple designs is Something that should not go unrecognized. Simply put, there are two types of people in the world of designing: those who appreciate simple designs, and those who do not. Why do you create simple designs? Simple designs are fashioned out of creativity and an understanding of the project brief. Simplicity is achieved through a perspective that most designers don’t have. Constantly you see designs that are masked with overcomplicated forms when the truly inspirational designs are captured through one color and minimal shapes.   What inspires you? There are many things that inspire me as a designer. Part of the designing process is to gain as much knowledge about the company/business prior to starting the project. This may entail reading pages and pages of history on the internet, or watching hours of videos; the more information the better. Listening to music while doing sketches is something I have found to be truly inspiring and yields a greater design in the end. Observing daily events with a watchful eye and studying the process of how things work is a phenomenon that definitely gets my creative gears turning.

Fence Horticulture

Less Is More


Less Is More

Joe Prince

Does your work fit with your personality? My work is a direct reflection of my personality that not only applies to my designs, but also to my life. I am easy going and always try to find the best possibly solution. This may be due to the fact that I studied Mechanical Engineering in college and was constantly surround by precise Mathematical equations and models, or simply because of the true appreciation I have for simplicity. Is there fine line between modernist design and simplicity design? I don’t believe there is a fine line between the two. The problem with modernist design is the repetitive use of Photoshop effects that some designers find appealing. A good design does not need to be covered up with shadows, gradients, etc. The problem with designs such as those is that they don’t follow the three rules of a strong design: able to be scaled down at small sizes and still maintain its legibility, able to be recognized from any perspective, and able to look good in black and white.

Backspace Web-Agency

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Joe Prince

What does simple mean to you? A simple design says more than a complex design. Simple designs can be seen by an array of different audiences all who can formulate different opinions. If you should a group of 10 people a black circle on a white piece of paper, I’m sure you will hear 10 different responses as to what they see. These varying responses are not something that is not possible with a complex design that leads the viewer into one direction. Is simplicity part of the problem solving? Simplicity is part of the problem solving in many instances. Simple designs are not only memorable, but can also stand the test of time which are two of the most important aspects when speaking in terms of a good design. While simplicity is not the only solution to the problem solving, it is being able to combine the simplistic approach with creativity and cleverness that will make your work stand out in a crowd.

Less Is More


Less Is More

Missing Web-Agency

Joe Prince

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Lotta Nieminen

Less Is More

LOTTA NIEMINEN

www.lottanieminen.com lotta@lottanieminen.com


Less Is More

Lotta Nieminen

39

“The easiest way for me to get inspired is to get bored. It helps me clear my thoughts, start things over�


40

Lotta Nieminen

Less Is More

Do you believe in the saying less is more? Yes. Although personally I’ve had my struggles with doing simple design – during my first years of graphic design studies, I was afraid that “simple” was a synonym for “safe and boring”. I wanted to do crazier things and bolder designs, but would always end up in something simplified and simple.

KI Kinnunen 2010

Even if I started with big, bold typography, I’d eventually tone it down and reduce the size so it’d look good to me. It took me a couple of years to come to terms with my personal taste, and not to fight it. I realized that in the right context, small type can be just as striking as big, bold type. Why do you create simple designs? I’ve always had a weakness for small type and a limited amount of simple details, and can’t really trace back where it comes from. I guess I like to simplify the idea and concept as much as possible, and see how little detail suffices to convey the message. A good idea pictured through simple design can be communication at its most effective. On the other hand, a simple design is way more merciless for a bad idea / concept. I aim for a strong feel of space in my compositions, and I think simple design is what makes that possible. When used the right way, white space becomes as meaningful as other elements used in design. (Using a lot of space is what I think people mean by simple designing?)


Less Is More

Lotta Nieminen

Materials are also very important to me, and I take great pleasure in choosing the right one for each project – keeping the overall design more simple makes the materials stand out in a completely different way, giving them a bigger role in the overall visual experience. What inspires you? 5 years ago I saw a Matisse exhibition in London, with a lot of his collage work displayed. Even though I had seen a lot of his work before, this one had a big influence on me. I started doing a lot of paper collages, that have later developed into my current way of illustrating by including Photoshop in the process. Traveling, experiencing new places and meeting new people also inspires me a lot. During my trip to Lisbon I fell in love with the light in the city. The white walls reflecting light and narrow alleyways casting shadows are magical. The easiest way for me to get inspired is to get bored. It helps me clear my thoughts, start things over, if I get designer’s block. Unfortunately finding time to get bored tends to be quite tricky. Watching people around me work is also a great source of inspiration. Not only friends working in a similar field: anyone getting engaged and involved in what they do best is exciting to watch.

Octavo 2010

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Lotta Nieminen

It’s so easy to find graphic design inspiration in the numerous blogs, magazines and books, that I deliberately try to avoid looking into them for too much all the time. I think the abundance of design and illustration displayed in the web and bookstores has so many pros, people can get very easily, unconsciously influenced, designers work can end up looking too much like one another. Does your work fit with your personality? I love to work with small details, carefully chosen typefaces. I’m definitely louder than my designs probably communicate. Is there fine line between modernist design and simplicity design? The modernist Bauhaus design embodies simple but strikingly powerful design in posters, architecture, typography. What does simple mean to you? To me simple is a synonym for refined and tasteful, something that’s been idea-wise narrowed down to the core. Simple design can be very quiet or very loud, depending on its type of context. Is simplicity part of the problem solving? To me simplicity is problem solving at its barest. In a simple design every piece and its position becomes more important.

Years 1 to 4 2010

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Less Is More

Lotta Nieminen

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Marc Monguilod

Less Is More

MARC MONGUILOD

www.markmarc.com hello@markmarc.com


Less Is More

Marc Monguilod

“I don’t think I get inspired, I think I will work on it”

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Marc Monguilod

Do you believe in the saying less is more? I believe that a simple message, graphic or concept is definitely much better to communicate an idea. I want to say I’m not in love with rules or topic like “simple is better”, I think every designer should find his way. Why do you create simple designs? Because for my ideas and concepts on each project I needed a straight direct message. I like being direct with a strong message, for me complicating receiver’s life without having idea of it is a lack of respect. What inspires you? I don’t think I get “inspired”, I think I “work on it”. But for sure common things of daily life affect in my way to look at things and think about subjects, concepts, ideas. Does your work fit with your personality? Yes, I think it isn’t divisible. Your personality affects your work without noticing it. Is there fine line between modernist design and simplicity design? I am not very fan of categorizing design as modernist, post-modernist, simplicity. I think simple design should be a goal for everyone who wants to have a straight message.

Less Is More


Less Is More

Marc Monguilod

Do you believe in the saying less is more? I believe that a simple message, graphic or concept is definitely much better to communicate an idea. I want to say I’m not in love with rules or topic like “simple is better”, I think every designer should find his way. Why do you create simple designs? Because for my ideas and concepts on each project I needed a straight direct message. I like being direct with a strong message, for me complicating receiver’s life without having idea of it is a lack of respect. What inspires you? I don’t think I get “inspired”, I think I “work on it”. But for sure common things of daily life affect in my way to look at things and think about subjects, concepts, ideas. Does your work fit with your personality? Yes, I think it isn’t divisible. Your personality affects your work without noticing it. Is there fine line between modernist design and simplicity design? I am not very fan of categorizing design as modernist, post-modernist, simplicity. I think simple design should be a goal for everyone who wants to have a straight message.

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Marc Monguilod

Gustaf 2010

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Less Is More

Gustaf 2010

Marc Monguilod

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Marc Monguilod

What does simple mean to you? Being capable of taking things off without destroying the message. Its keeping the essence of things and throwing to the bin . Is simplicity part of the problem solving? I think simplicity is a natural evolution of the problem, you start with complete mess in your head followed with a more complete mess in your computer and without knowing you start simplifying your work until it ends being understandable for you and for the persons you are interested to get the message.

One Hundred One Hundred 2010

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Less Is More

Rake Marshall

51

RAKE MARSHALL

www.marshallrake.com marshall@marshallrake.com


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Rake Marshall

Less Is More

“When the goal is communication there is no reason to be a maximalist�


Less Is More

Rake Marshall

Do you believe in the saying less is more? I strongly believe in the saying. I take issue with graphic design that is overly embellished. When the goal is communication there is no reason to be a maximalist. Why do you create simple designs? A simple design is far from simple. Rather than hiding weak concepts with Photoshop a simple design is about the beauty of purity. What inspires you? In school I inspired to be simple by the works of Experimental Jetset, Konst & Teknik similarly fantastic studios. Martin Kippenberger is another fantastic designer/image maker. The writing of Albert Camus has reinforced the love for the simple. Albert’s works are very strong and powerful, but he does this all while keeping his stories short. Does your work fit with your personality? Design is like art, should be honest.

The People Of Paper 2009

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Rake Marshall

Is there fine line between modernist design and simplicity design? “Modern� is an elusive word. It means many things to many people. I would say that simple design has become a rejection. What does simple mean to you? Simple is creating beauty with basic design elements (type, rules/shapes, basic colour) that reinforce the designers concept, rather than covering it up. Is simplicity part of the problem solving? Focusing on simple is something that should guide a design, but only if simplicity is the right and best answer.

The People Of Paper Reprise 2009

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Rake Marshall

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Thank You

I would like to thank the graphic designers who took time answering my questions.

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Less Is More

Quote

Quote

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Philippe Starck Juicer 1990

Philippe Starck

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Less is More

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

59

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity�


60

Bob Dylan Subterranean Homesick Blues

Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan 1965

Less Is More


Less is More

Jeremy Spencer

61

“I just like simplicity. I like simple songs, I like simple chords, simple vocals, simple lead guitar. I just like simplicity. That’s just the way I like it�


62

Apple Shuffle 2005

Apple

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Less is More

Donald Norman

“I believe that the Apple Shuffle is an excellent compromise among the conflicting requirements of simplicity, elegance, size, battery life, and function�

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64

Black Ribbon Michael Jackson – MTV 2010

BBDO Düsseldorf

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Less is More

Jacob Lawrence

“When the subject is strong, simplicity is the only way to treat it�

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Sept. 11th, 2001 T-shirts and Stickers

Joe Prince

Less Is More


Less is More

Andy Goldsworthy

“A snowball is simple, direct and familiar to most of us. I use this simplicity as a container for feelings and ideas that function�

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Bibliography

Bibliography: Abi Huynh: www.abiabiabi.com

Philippe Starck Juicer:: www.best-juicer.net

Albert Exergian: www.exergian.com

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: www.brainyquote.com

Amandine Alessandra: www.amandinealessan.comdra.

Bob Dylan; www.flickr.com

Daisy Argyle:: www.daisyargyle.com

Jeremy Spencer; www.brainyquote.com

Hans Gremmen: www.hansgremmen.nl

Apple Shuffle:: www.tech2.in.com

Jesse Kirsch: www.jessekirsch.com

Donald Norman: www.brainyquote.com

Joe Prince: www.admixdesigns.com

BBDO D端sseldorfJ: www.bbdo.de/cms/de

Lotta Nieminen: www.lottanieminen.com

Jacob Lawrence: www.brainyquote.com

Marc Monguilod: www.markmarc.com

Joe Prince: www.admixdesigns.com

Marshall Rake: www.marshallrake.com

Andy Goldsworthy: www.brainyquote.com

Less is More


Less Is More By Claire Birtwistle


design context 76 pages