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The “Simple” Solution

We live in an information-saturated world where the need, the yearning, for simplicity is greater than ever. In communication, in marketing, in just making it through the day, we want to cut through the clutter and get down to what matters. Simplicity isn’t necessarily simple to achieve, but it’s always worth the effort.

Back in 2013, Fast Company magazine published “Successful Entrepreneurs Give Their Younger Selves Lessons They Wish They’d Known Then,” one of their most frequently re-posted articles. In the piece, SoundCloud co-founder/CEO Alexander Ljung touts the considerable power of simplicity in business and in life.

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Postcards From The Frist

From master painters to classic cars, Nashville’s Frist Center For The Visual Arts always offers an inspired variety of high-profile exhibitions. But some of the most amazing discoveries can be found in the museum’s quieter showings. “Postcards of the Wiener Werkstätte” is a prime example, and it’s well worth catching before it closes on October 12th.

Founded in 1903 by architect Josef Hoffmann and designer Koloman Moser, and flourishing in the years leading up to the Great War, the Wiener Werkstätte was all about erasing the distinction between “high” and “low” art, and “designing every aspect of daily life.”

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Facing The Big Squeeze

I can pack a bag like nobody else. I inherited this skill from my dad, who had an uncanny ability to fit huge amounts of stuff into a suitcase, a car trunk, a boat locker, or wherever.

When I’d pack up the family car for vacation, my kids used to just stand back and let me do my thing, marveling at my ability to get it all in there. My son Sam has inherited the family trait. You’ll find him tooling around Boston on his bike, messenger bag stuffed with gear, from laptop to extra layers to water bottle to the kitchen sink. That’s my boy!

That kind of efficiency and economy is essential to effective design. I love to create breathing room and allow the message to shine through. But every now and again I’m faced with a project that can’t be edited down. That’s when I call on my packing skills.

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The Quiet Genius Of Adrian Frutiger

Adrian Frutiger died a couple of weeks back. You may not recognize the name, but chances are you’ve experienced the clarity of the deceivingly simple and iconic typefaces (including one named after himself) he designed over the course of his long and distinguished career.

“Frutiger is basically the best signage type in the world because there’s not too much ‘noise’ in it, so it doesn’t call attention to itself,” Erik Spiekermann, a prominent German type designer and friend of Mr. Frutiger, told the New York Times in a recent retrospective. “It makes itself invisible, but physically it’s actually incredibly legible.”

Here’s Frutiger himself from an interview on the Linotype Company’s website: “The whole point with type is for you not to be aware it is there. If you remember the shape of a spoon with which you just ate some soup, then the spoon had a poor shape. Spoons and letters are tools. The first we need to ingest bodily nourishment from a bowl, the latter we need to ingest mental nourishment from a piece of paper.”

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The Positive Power Of Negative Space

Maybe you took notice of the over-the-top pullout ad for the new biopic “Steve Jobs” in this week’s Sunday edition of “The New York Times.” It was certainly hard to miss. But considering the splashy, oversized approach, this folded, 8-panel ad contained a surprisingly small amount of actual information, with the inside four panels featuring only full-page photographs of the film’s four main characters.

Why would Universal Studios spend so much money and occupy so much real estate while sharing so little actual information about the film? This is a great example of less is more. In so many ways, that lack of clutter says so much. The abundance of white space is an intentional reference to the classic, clean-and-simple look of anything Apple, and it communicates far more than mere words could ever express.

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