Why is it so hard to make something so simple?

One of the first projects I designed on my own at my first agency job was a simple flyer. I remember the client had a lot of information they wanted on there and most of it wasn’t necessary. The poster I ended up sending back was pretty minimal — but it was really effective.

The feedback was a stinger: It looks like something I could have done in Word.”

They didn’t appreciate it because it didn’t look” like I desigend anything. They didn’t understand that we needed to make the primary message stand out. 

What I learned from this process is how connected people get to their own content.

It’s difficult to realize that potential clients or customers aren’t as passionate about the client’s business as they are. It made sense that the client was — its why they were in business!

One of the big challenges we face as designers is getting them to understand this predicament and to know that clairty and simplicity is key. It’s why we have our design processes — why we ask a lot of questions that don’t relate to design in an obvious way.

As designers, we always want people to stop and admire our work. Clients want people do to do that as well because of how important these things are to them. But what we have to realize is sometimes design needs to quickly get a message across and then get out of the way.

Some of the best design does nothing more than what it absolutely has to do. I know a lot of designers pick on Apple — particularly the iOS interface. It’s not flashy, but it works. I still remember how upset people were when the interface changed from a skeuomorphic look to the flat design. In the words of my client, it looked like something they could have done in Word.”

What we learned, was the extra flash wasn’t necessary. Removing it slimmed things down and allowed people to accomplish what they needed to do quicker. 

There are, of course, some interfaces out there that may do well with a more complex design. But we have to know and apply our knowledge and know when that’s appropriate and when it’s not.

Clients often overestimate the amount of time people look at their marketing materials. It goes inline with what I mentioned earlier. Simpler design pieces are more effective and if they still need to get more information out, it’s a good opportunity to suggest more marketing materials.

It allows the client some more flexibility as well. They can see how people are responding to the initial message, and then adjust things further down the pipeline.

Simplicity does take time and effort. Oddly, complex design is what takes less time when we’re not objectively deciding what deserves to be there. When a client understands the methods to our madness, we can create a more effective piece for them.

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