I see simplicity as taking away the obvious (decoration) and adding the meaningful. This holds true while working on design projects just as much as in my daily life.
Simplification is not easy nor something that comes naturally to me. I am a layered and complex person, we all are, just like the world around us. Finding ways to embrace and incorporate the beauty of simplicity in our own lives takes a lot of work.
And, when it comes to designing experiences that are meaningful– understanding the complexity of people including their needs, pain points and motivations as well as the environment in which they are in is what is at the core of my design process. We need to create experiences that are as simple as they are meaningful.
Things I do in my personal life affect my design work. While I do try to compartmentalize the two as much as I can, there is an organic and rich fluidity between the two. In order to make the relationship positive there are a few things I incorporate into my daily life.
1. Meditation. I tried for years to meditate according to what I thought meditation should look like – sitting on the floor, legs crossed and palms out chanting a mantra. This never worked for me. I became uncomfortable and focused on the tingling in my feet rather than my mind.
I have found ways to meditate that work for me given the context of my situation. While living in Johannesburg, I rarely took long walks due to security concerns so instead I would lie on the grass in my backyard where I was surrounded by my own mini-jungle of Rhododendrons and the sounds of birds. The act of being one with the earth, even the tiny patch of grass in our little yard, was enough to help with my own form of meditation.
Since moving to Colorado, meditation has taken the form of walking and taking in sunrises, sunsets and the view of the Rocky Mountains. It is during these walks when I achieve the mental space I need to find a bit of clarity of mind.
2. I am trying desperately to simplify my household. We moved here with a semi-truck full of accumulated madness from Africa in late December 2014. A few weeks later another semi-truck showed up with boxes and boxes of stuff from storage that I hadn’t seen in years (or honestly remembered owning).
I quickly shoved the storage containers in our basement. I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume from my past life including VHS tapes of childhood violin recitals (do I really think I am ever going watch these?) to boxes and boxes of beloved books that I hope will eventually line my walls of a library in which I do not have (will I ever?). I still dream I will, so maybe those will stay in the basement for now.
I started following a blog by Caroline Joy called UnFancy that helps me tackle my closet. My small closet was definitely a better first step in terms of achieving simplicity than the basement or garage. She focuses on creating small capsule collections for different seasons making the getting ready process easier by taking away the obvious and irrelevant pieces and again, keeping only the meaningful, functional and useful pieces in your closet. I am a little obsessed with her blog and you probably will be too!
When it comes to design, the same points hold true. Understanding and observing users first then designing a way for them to achieve their goals in the most natural, simple and meaningful way should always be our goal. Give them what they need when they need it. And, don’t distract them with a wealth of information and distractions that they may not need at that moment. Nobody wants that.
There is a beauty in simplicity. Maybe that should be my new mantra.