Book Review: The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

the law of simplicityWhile I expected a lot from this book, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Don’t get me wrong, the book is good, but it is more of a personal journal than a book about simplicity. In spite of the imperfections, I still think the book is a good read.

I am a big fan of John Maeda and what he does at the Media Lab. I have been reading his blog about simplicity and following his Web site for some time and from what I have seen, I have to admit that the author is a great technologist and designer. One particular project I think is brilliant is a graphics about the crisis in Darfur. The simplicity of this graphics helps communicate a powerful message.

With this in mind, I expected his book on simplicity to be exceptional. Although the book is quite good, it is not as substantial as I thought it would be. The book is short, exactly 100 pages long, broken down into 14 chapters outlining 10 principles, 3 keys and a last chapter about life and technology. Each principle is decorated with a logo designed by the author to foreshadow the content that follows. I didn’t find the logos to be particularly useful or inspiring.

The principles of simplicity mentioned in this book are shallow with few examples that support them. Most of the examples are arbitrary and not immediately made clear as to how they relate to what the author is talking about . I find the principles hard to apply in a real life situation.

The book is not all bad. I find it inspiring despite its shortcomings. Some of the examples are interesting and coming from the author’s own life experience.

If you are looking for an enjoyable reading on simplicity and design in a quiet afternoon, I would definitely recommend the book.

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