Eliminate every element that’s not doing useful work

William Zissner, writing about writing in his classic book, “On Writing Well”:

With each rewrite I try to make what I have written tighter, stronger and more precise, eliminating every element that’s not doing useful work. Then I go over it once more, reading it aloud, and am always amazed at how much clutter can still be cut.Writers must therefore constantly ask: what am I trying to say?

This is also applicable to design. When you know what you are trying to say, or convey, you can eliminate the unnecessary. Is a skeuomorphic element necessary?

Flat Design is Honest Design

Totally agree with this from LayerVault in which the author describes simplicity and flatness in design as honesty:

We interpret recent shots taken at skeuomorphism as a sign of the coming of “Honest Design”. Much like we were not too long ago, designers working for the web are getting fed up with the irrational, ugly shortcuts being praised as good design.

While one side of the mouth yells “good design is how it works”, the other side mumbles that great aesthetics mean realism. It doesn’t need to be this way. Designing honestly means recognizing that things you can do with screens and input devices can’t be done with physical objects – more importantly that we shouldn’t try copying them.

Two of Dieter Rams’ ten design principles:

Good design is honest – It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

Good design is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

I remember seeing flat design in the first version of Ableton Live back in 2001 when everyone was refining their bevels and highlights, and thought then that it looked and felt pleasing. The latest Windows Metro UI attempts this at the OS level, though this needs more refinement. Now that Jony Ive has greater influence on Apple’s software, iOS might catch up soon. Go, flat design!

‘Any sufficiently technical expert is indistinguishable from a witch’

Robert Graham of Errata Security reflecting on Aaron Swartz:

Besides taking the “civil liberty” angle, I’m trying to get to the “witchcraft” angle. As Arthur C Clarke puts it, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. Here is my corollary: “Any sufficiently technical expert is indistinguishable from a witch”. People fear magic they don’t understand, and distrust those who wield that magic. Things that seem reasonable to technical geeks seem illegal to the non-technical.

I like that.